Tuesday, March 11, 2014

AN HONEST MAN: The Life of R. Budd Dwyer

Robert Budd Dwyer (November 21, 1939 – January 22, 1987) was an American politician in the state of Pennsylvania. He served from 1971 to 1981 as a Republican member of the Pennsylvania State Senate representing the state's 50th district. He served as the 30th Treasurer of Pennsylvania from January 20, 1981 to January 22, 1987; on that day, Dwyer called a news conference in the Pennsylvania state capital of Harrisburg where he killed himself in front of the gathered reporters with a .357 caliber revolver.[5] Dwyer's suicide was also broadcast to a wide television audience across the state of Pennsylvania.
the early 1980s, Pennsylvania discovered its state workers had overpaid federal taxes due to errors in state withholding. Many accounting firms competed for a multimillion-dollar contract to determine compensation to each employee. In 1986, Dwyer was convicted of receiving a bribe from a California firm trying to gain the contract. Throughout his trial and after his conviction, he maintained that he was innocent of the charge and that he had been framed. Dwyer was scheduled to be sentenced on those charges on January 23, 1987, the day after his suicide.

You've probably seen the footage on the internet. It's easy enough to find, but if you haven't seen it, I don't necessarily recommend it. The ghastly footage of Budd Dwyer's suicide was one of my first obsessions, in the early days of my exposure to the internet. I watched it maybe a hundred times, on shitty dialup video. I wrote a blogpost about it. I briefly corresponded with one of his many friends. Now, finally, someone has cared enough to tell the story, and bring some context and some humanity to the humiliation and the horror. This is not a great documentary, but it's a necessary documentary. The story that seems to emerge suggests that Dwyer may have been the victim of some petty vindictiveness initiated by Richard Thornburgh, then Pennsylvania Governor, and later, Attorney General under the older President Bush. One thing that needs to be understood to put this seemingly mad act into perspective is that, because Dwyer died before he was sentenced, his family received a pension death benefit of 1.28 million dollars. His last act saved them from financial ruin..

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