The state of Pennsylvania is taking their desire for transparency to whole new level. In the interest of viewing history as it happened, as of Tuesday, the Pennsylvania State Capitol will now be including inscribed golden plaques below the portraits of past lawmakers that will tell the complete story. Those members of Pennsylvania politics who ended their career without allegations of evildoing will still have the same, old boring "time served" plaques, but those politicians who are now facing jail time will get to have their legacy mocked by field trips from here until the zombie apocalypse.
Need an example? If you're in the same boat as Bob Mellow, and you were, say, convicted of corruption, then the little gold plaque under your portrait will now reflect that ignominious end to your political career.
To date, the portraits of four politicians who served in the Pennsylvania house have been altered. The portraits of Robert Mellow, Bill DeWeese, John Perzel and Herbert Fineman now all accurately reflect the crimes for which they were convicted and imprisoned.
Faced with the option to take down the portraits or simply do nothing, state officials felt honesty would, in fact, be the best policy. A spokesman for House Speaker Sam Smith, Stephen Miskin, explained, "You can’t change history, whether you like it or not … There was a feeling you should keep the portraits out there and let people make up their own mind.” Don't look now but the folks who run Pennsylvania just said they wanted to give people all the facts and let them subsequently form their own opinions. That's dangerous talk in politics.
While the notion seems silly on the surface, there's something refreshing about this type of public flagellation. These men were entrusted with their state's well-being and they abused that privilege. Shouldn't that betrayal a) earn them a little bit of scorn, and b) not be forgotten in case future jerks want to follow in their footsteps?
Bill DeWeese, the former Pennsylvania House speaker who was convicted of using state resources for his re-election campaign, noted, "In the National Portrait Gallery, there's no mention of Watergate under Richard Nixon's portrait." Well, maybe there should be.