Pennsylvania State Treasurer R. Budd Dwyer (right) was a figure beloved by all who knew him and his integrity was never questioned until his erstwhile friend and fellow Republican — former Pennsylvania Governor Dick Thornburgh (left) — turned against him and utilized his connections in the Justice Department and the FBI to orchestrate trumped-up corruption charges against Dwyer. Following his conviction, Dwyer committed public suicide, calling for the mass media to expose the conspiracy to destroy him. The press chose to look the other way.
The Budd Dwyer Affair:
How the Justice Department
Destroyed a Decent and Honorable Man
Here’s the story behind the story of the shocking public suicide of Pennsylvania State Treasurer R. Budd Dwyer in Harrisburg, the state capital, on January 22, 1987. The circumstances of Dwyer’s suicide — and the events that preceded it — provide a startling inside view of the massive corruption and political intrigue that has been a hallmark of modern “justice” at the hands of the U.S. Department of Justice and the FBI exemplified all too clearly once again in later years by those same forces when they set up and took down Congressman Jim Traficant.
What follows is the account of the Dwyer affair as it was first described in the pages of the weekly Spotlight newspaper following Dwyer’s untimely death. No other newspaper in America — with the exception of American Free Press (now published on Capitol Hill in Washington) — has ever dared to tell the story that Dwyer hoped that the “responsible” media would tell.
In the weeks following Budd Dwyer’s suicide, circulating throughout political circles in Pennsylvania (particularly within Republican ranks) were copies of an explosive document that should have exposed what many called “the biggest political railroad job in years.”
The document — if widely publicized — threatened to derail the unannounced, but very evident, national ambitions of a former Republican governor of Pennsylvania, Dick Thornburgh, and it also pointed the way toward a much-needed major investigation of the U.S. Justice Department.
The document in question was the typewritten 21-page statement that Pennsylvania’s popular and respected state treasurer, R. Budd Dwyer, released at a press conference on * the morning of January 22. [*Pg 142] The assembled members of the press expected Dwyer to resign his post, following his conviction on bribery charges.
Instead, Dwyer concluded his conference by drawing a .357 Magnum revolver, placing the barrel in his mouth and killing himself.
The treasurer hoped his dramatic death would result in a media investigation of how he was set up by his political opponents, including his fellow Republican, former Gov. Dick Thornburgh, and that the media would expose the tactics used by a Justice Department prosecutor, James West (a longtime Thornburgh associate), to engineer his conviction. Dwyer believed that if he, a powerful elected official in one of the largest states in the union, could be unjustly prosecuted, convicted and eventually sentenced to prison, so, too, could thousands of other innocent people.
The irony, however, is that the media instead concentrated its attention on sensationalizing Dwyer’s suicide. Television footage of Dwyer’s death was shown again and again. Indelicate photographs of his final moments were published in hundreds, if not thousands, of newspapers coast to coast and in Europe as well.
The Washington Post, which is almost universally hailed as America’s political newspaper of record, outdid itself. The Establishment newspaper published one particularly graphic photo of Dwyer that appears to have been published nowhere else.
The Post, like virtually all of the major media, told its readers that Dwyer had read a “rambling” statement before he took his life. Never once did the Post explain the substance of Dwyer’s statement, other than to note that the treasurer had (as he had been doing the past two years) proclaimed his innocence of the charges upon which he had been convicted.
The Spotlight obtained a copy of Dwyer’s statement, * among other materials he prepared before his suicide. [*Pg 143] The statement was not, by any stretch of imagination, “rambling.”
Instead, it was a clear, thoughtful, totally rational, concisely written exposition of Dwyer’s side of the story. The statement was a powerful indictment of certain forces in the Pennsylvania Republican and Democratic parties and in the U.S. Justice Department, working in league with a host of corrupt businessmen to engineer the political assassination of R. Budd Dwyer.
Dwyer joined a long list of innocent men and women unjustly prosecuted by the Justice Department, among them a number of respected public officials including former Reps. George V Hansen (R-Idaho) and John Dowdy (D-Texas), most of whom — like Dwyer — committed the sole crime of taking on the political Establishment.
His suicide came on the heels of a widely publicized two-and-a-half year controversy arising from what was known in the Keystone State as the “CTA scandal.”
“CTA” stood for “Computer Technology Associates Ltd,” a California firm, which allegedly offered Dwyer a $300,000 kickback in return for Dwyer, as Pennsylvania state treasurer, awarding it a $4.6-million no-bid contract. The contract was for the work of assisting Pennsylvania public schools in recovering some $40 million in Social Security taxes improperly withheld from school employees.
Dwyer was convicted on December 18, 1986 for his alleged role in the conspiracy, and on January 22, 1987 he shot himself.
CTA was the brainchild of John Torquato. Torquato was originally from Johnstown, Pennsylvania and was the son of John Torquato who was for 37 years the Democratic Party boss in Cambria County, in west-central Pennsylvania. The elder Torquato was convicted for extortion in the mid-1970s, following an investigation by the Justice Department.
It was none other than R. Budd Dwyer, then a state sen-* ator, who made the initial inquiries that launched the investigation that ended in Torquato senior’s conviction. [*Pg 144] One Pennsylvania Republican leader described the younger Torquato’s subsequent testimony against Dwyer as “little John’s revenge”...
[This concludes the sample of Appendix Two,
which continues to page 163 in the softcover and ebook editions]