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A powerful sociopath taken down, and why we need to understand him

It’s been awhile since I wrote about Vince Fumo, former Pennsylvania State Senator, representing Philadelphia, and now a resident of the federal prison camp in Ashland, Kentucky. In 2009, he was convicted of 137 counts of fraud, conspiracy, tax offenses and obstruction of justice. His crimes cost taxpayers and nonprofit organizations $4 million. Yet he received a sentence of only 55 months, which many, including me, considered to be a mere slap on the wrist.

Federal prosecutors were so outraged at the leniency of Judge Ronald L. Buckwalter’s sentence that they actually appealed it. The feds won. The appellate court found that Buckwalter had erred, and on Wednesday, Fumo will be in court for a new sentencing hearing. Fumo, therefore, is back in the news.

Up close and personal

Vincent J. Fumo was, for many years, the most powerful politician in Philadelphia, and then he was hauled into court. For journalists, this story is a gold mine. Because Fumo is a public figure, and because court proceedings are public records, just about anything can be written about him without fear of defamation lawsuits. And, because so many people have axes to grind about Fumo, they’re willing to talk.

Philadelphia Magazine produced three absolutely fascinating articles about this guy.  They provide an in-depth look at how a sociopathic megalomaniac views the world and maneuvers to accomplish his self-serving agenda—“balls and brains, loyalty and leverage.”  The articles also describe the dynamics between Fumo and the people around him, especially when there is no more loyalty and leverage.

Power: Fumo, after the fall
The most powerful politician in Philadelphia is heading to jail. In an exclusive interview, Vince Fumo talks about the agony of his trial, and why he still doesn’t know what he did that was so wrong (August 2009)

The Betrayal
For 30 years, as Vince Fumo ruled Philadelphia politics, we knew how he operated: You were either on his side or he’d try to destroy you. The behind-the-scenes run-up to his federal trial this month reveals something new: His family works in exactly the same way (September 2008)

The Feud
After years as the closest of friends, two of Philadelphia’s most brilliant and powerful men, Dick Sprague and Vince Fumo, have turned bitter enemies. A tale of influence, money, accusations of betrayal — and the impact their shattered relationship is having on the rest of us (June 2008)

In his own words

As I said, Vince Fumo is in the news again because federal prosecutors have won a resentencing hearing. Last week prosecutors released an 86-page court filing to prove that Fumo was “unchanged, convinced that he committed no crime, wholly unrepentant, virulently hostile towards the prosecutors and all other law enforcement officials.”

And how do they know this? They read Fumo’s emails.

Yes, Club Fed in Kentucky allows inmates access to email. And despite the fact Fumo knows his emails are not private, he has sent 12,068 pages, many of them complaining that he did nothing wrong, no one was hurt, and everyone who contributed to putting him behind bars was dumb, stupid and corrupt.

Well, it seems that Fumo himself was dumb and stupid as well as corrupt, because he kept sending the email tirades, even after his lawyers and fiancée asked him to stop.

Read The sorrow and self-pity: Fumo lashes out in e-mails from prison, on Philly.com.

The entire government filing is also entertaining reading. You can find a link to it on this story:

Feds say Fumo lying and denying his way through too-short prison term, on Philadelphia.cbslocal.com.

Here is one of Fumo’s emails that prosecutors included in their brief:

I have totally lost faith in the system. How could I have any confidence in it considering of where I am for what I am alleged to have done! :-( Even with the Judge dong to right thing, did I deserve all of the punishment I have so far endured? 55 months in prison, denial of the RDAP, $2.4 million in fines and restitution, $3 million in legal fees, loss of my civil rights to ever posses a gun again, being thrown out of every big bank in the country, labeled as a Felon for the rest of my life, getting a new passport with the Scarlet Letter F emblazoned on it, the loss of the pension I worked 35 years for, etc. etc. WTF, because I sent David for my laundry and got some tools from CABN [Citizens Alliance for Better Neighborhoods] and a few boat rides from the museum! How is that Justice by any means? Getting found guilty by a jury that was dumb, corrupt and prejudiced? Being hounded forever by evil prosecutors who run amok without any restraint! Then to have the 3rd Circuit treat our appeal as they seem to have. That is all the “system” and it is corrupt and unjust by its very existence. . . . . My so called crime grew exponentially throughout the trial. I was only indicted with a loss figure of $2,000,000 and that was inflated for sensationalism. By the time they were done with their bullshit charts and extrapolations, it grew to over $5,000,000. Meanwhile I never got a dime. So if you look at that I should be in prison for 20 years PLUS!!!

Can you say, “blames others”? Or how about, “pity play”?

Scope of the problem

So why should we care about Vince Fumo? Most of us have our hands full with the sociopaths in our own lives—the devastation they have wrought, and how we’re going to recover. This is, of course, appropriate, because our first obligation is to ourselves.

But we all need to remember that the core of the sociopathic personality is power, control and dominance, and many sociopaths dominate their ways into positions of incredible power. They pass laws so they and their friends get what they want. They bleed businesses, industries, and entire economies. When these exploiters are calling the shots, it can get very bad for the rest of us.

We need to know that exploiters who operate on a grand scale are out there. And whenever we have opportunities to block them, in whatever small way, we need to do it. Let’s not feed the beasts.



6 Comments on "A powerful sociopath taken down, and why we need to understand him"

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  1. Ox Drover says:

    Donna, last night on Dateline they were interviewing this lobbiest that got caught for all his illegal maneuvers and he was talking about how the bills are written in the congress to be DELIBERATELY “word salad” to cover up what they actually accomplish and how there was not a single person in congress at the time he was there that didn’t have his/her finger in the “honey pot.”

    Yea, I think you are exactly right, the “higher level” psychopaths maneuver themselves into positions of power and influence, and the “lower level” ones that are too lazy or too stupid to focus themselves in college, etc. rob liquor stores, but they are the SAME kind of critter. I think Bob Hare’s term “Snakes in Suits” sure fits these creeps in our congress and senate and governor’s chairs and corner offices.

    55 YEARS is not a long enough time for a man like this.

    My psychopathic son’s bragging letters about how “his crime (murder) was worse than even the cops knew” were his undoing as well in the last parole hearing…but even that won’t keep him in prison for Real “life.”

  2. panther says:

    It’s amazing how “good” they are at actually making you think for a second, “Well, was it unfair? Did he really do all that stuff? Wait, what does he mean he didn’t get a dime?”

    They are experts at taking partial realities or things that sound logical and then twisting them just enough to get our doubts running without setting off a BULLSHIT alarm. My ex did this all the time. He’d take a partial truth and throw a little twist in it. It’d be confusing as all hell. You’d be thinking, “Well, I know that this part is true…but I don’t remember this particular detail being quite like that….is my memory bad or did I miss something?”

    Now, the ticker is that WE know what is going on here. I read his emails and he manages to stir some confusion and doubt in me. For only a moment. Then I remember that he’s a spath, I remember how my ex spath was, and I see it for what it is. For those people out there who don’t understand evil on this level, how are they going to make heads or tails of this guy? Most people do not understand how profoundly a person can lie without missing a beat. Most people assume that if a person sounds genuine enough, then they must be telling the truth, because otherwise why would they risk it? It doesn’t matter how bizaare their story sounds.

    So, the LF crowd can see this guy clearly, but how many out there are getting gas-lighted by him and all the other politicians?

    I just watched a video today of a speech by Newt Gingrich and I immediately got a spathy vibe from him….the crowd was cheering. That freaks me OUT! (maybe he’s not a spath, but there was something spathy about his speech)

  3. darwinsmom says:

    Oxy: “this lobbiest that got caught for all his illegal maneuvers and he was talking about how the bills are written in the congress to be DELIBERATELY “word salad” to cover up what they actually accomplish and how there was not a single person in congress at the time he was there that didn’t have his/her finger in the “honey pot.”

    Not saying others are innocent at all (I highly doubt it), but it sounds like the typical spath excuse… “Everybody does it!”

  4. skylar says:

    While I agree that this guy needed to be taken down and that we need to understand him, I don’t see him as being a scary psychopath. He seems extremely narcissistic and doesn’t even hide it. He actually doesn’t seem to understand what he did wrong. He thinks everybody is doing it. I would just call him a malignant narcissist.

    For me, the truly scary spath is the one you can’t tell is spath because of the mask of “goodness”. Vince never bothered with a mask at all. We didn’t even need red flags with Vince because he put up banners all on his own. What IS more frightening, to me, is that it took so long for people to see what he was and boot his ass. The lack of integrity in humanity is what is scary. Guys like this don’t even need to hide what they are because they know that nobody will stand up to them. The minions are scary because there are so many.

    Maybe I haven’t read enough about him and don’t have the full scoop. I read 2 of the articles.

  5. Ox Drover says:

    Darwin, actually he wasn’t saying “everyone does it” as an excuse for himself…he was just saying that it is so common that the entire congress is crooked, so at the time he was doing all this, it was just SOP (standard operating procedure) and he knew it was WRONG but fell into line with the “culture” of how lobbying was done.

    Now, he is out of prison, and broke, working at a menial job, and has acknowledged his role in this culture of crookedness was WRONG and is trying to pay off his fines and live a good and honest life. I think he is probably not a psychopath, but just fell in with crooks and didn’t have enough moral compass to say “no” to the BIG BUCKS. He gave the interviewer an example of how a bill was “written” with word salad so that NO ONE except the people who wrote it could tell what it meant. It was actually a “change” that allowed an Indian tribe to put in a casino and he was paid by the Indians to get it inserted, into a bill, he got a congressman to do so for perks for the congressman, and so since no “cash” actually passed hands from him or his clients to the congressman, it was “legal” and he showed how the “reform” laws actually were “word saladed” so that the congressmen can STILL take “perks” from lobbiests and special interest groups and be “legal.” LOL I still maintain that ALL politicians have had to sell their souls to the devil to get to that high office. I don’t think it is possible unless you are willing to compromise your morals.

  6. darwinsmom says:

    Oxy, thanks for explaining.

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