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From prison to Democratic National Convention, Veon ‘back in the game’

Tom Fontaine
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Donald Gilliland | Tribune-Review
Former Pennsylvania state Rep. Mike Veon works the room of Pennsylvania delegates on Monday, July 25, 2016, at the Democratic National Convention in Philadelphia.
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Donald Gilliland | Tribune-Review
Former Pennsylvania state Rep. Mike Veon works the room of Pennsylvania delegates on Monday, July 25, 2016, at the Democratic National Convention in Philadelphia.
ptrconventionveon3
Donald Gilliland | Tribune-Review
Former Pennsylvania state Rep. Mike Veon works the room of Pennsylvania delegates on Monday, July 25, 2016, at the Democratic National Convention in Philadelphia.

PHILADELPHIA — Former Pennsylvania House Democratic Whip Mike Veon missed his party’s last presidential nominating convention in 2012.

He was in prison.

At the time, Veon, 59, was serving time for his role in the “Bonusgate” scandal that uncovered corruption in state government and resulted in nearly two dozen convictions.

Veon, released from state prison more than a year ago, was back in his element Monday at the Democratic National Convention in Philadelphia. It’s the ninth convention he has attended.

“If you love politics like I do, you want to be at these conventions. I haven’t missed many in my adult lifetime,” Veon said.

Wearing a sharp, checkered sport coat, Veon stopped at table after table, shaking hands, during the Pennsylvania delegation’s breakfast. Several people approached him to say hello.

“People have been very welcoming and gracious,” Veon said.

Veon, a Beaver County native, now calls the Pittsburgh neighborhood of Carrick home. He said he is working as a lobbyist and government relations consultant.

Veon represented the Beaver Falls area for 21 years and rose to become the second-highest ranking Democrat in the state House until he lost re-election in 2006 during a voter backlash against pay raises that legislators gave themselves. Four years later, a judge sentenced Veon to six to 14 years in prison for directing a program that rewarded legislative staffers who campaigned for Democrats with $1.4 million in taxpayer-funded bonuses. That scandal became known as “Bonusgate.”

Two years after his Bonusgate sentencing, Veon received another one to four years after being convicted of misappropriating funds from the Beaver Initiative for Growth, a nonprofit that he co-founded. It had obtained $10 million in tax money over more than a decade.

Upon his release in June 2015, Veon said in a statement issued jointly with his attorney, Joel Sansone, that the prison time resulted from “an arbitrary, capricious and overtly political prosecution against a prominent Democrat by the politically ambitious Republican (Tom Corbett of Shaler) who everyone knew wanted to be governor.”

Veon said Monday that he has placed that chapter of his life behind him.

“I’m from Beaver Falls. I was always the smallest offensive lineman on my football team, but my coach taught me something that still holds true today,” Veon said: “When you get knocked down, you get up as fast as you can and get back in the game.”

Tom Fontaine is a staff writer for Trib Total Media. Reach him at 412-320-7847 or [email protected]

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