The Budd Dwyer story is a unique and sad one. He served as the 30th treasurer of Pennsylvania and was a member of the Pennsylvania Senate. However, the man is widely remembered as the politician who killed himself on live TV.
Dwyer, a victim of circumstance was wrongfully accused of bribery and rather than pleading guilty to crimes he did not commit, killed himself during a press conference. His death shook the entire US especially after it was discovered that he was indeed innocent of the bribery crimes.
His live suicide was aired on several stations in Pennsylvania and thousands viewed the horrible incident. While most of the questions raised about the man’s death have largely been left unanswered, here are the things to know about the life of the exceptional politician.
Budd Dwyer Bio
Budd Dwyer was born on November 21, 1939. Before his political adventure, he was a teacher. He taught social studies and was also a football coach at Cambridge Springs High School. Budd had an interest in accountancy while growing up, but along the line, politics took the lead. He was an alumnus of Allegheny College, Meadville Pennsylvania.
Dwyer intensified his pursuit of a career in politics after he majored in political science and saw that more could be done to improve the political system. He soon became highly interested in politics and joined the Beta Chi chapter of the prestigious Theta Chi Fraternity.
Budd later became a member of the Pennsylvania House of Representatives in 1964. He didn’t stop there as he went on to seek reelection which he won in 1966 and again in 1968. Thereafter (in 1970), he ran for a seat at the Pennsylvania State Senate and emerged a winner. Budd Dwyer stood out for his diligence and patriotism and was regarded as a man of integrity.
Becoming a senator in 1971, Dwyer continued with his good works and was reelected in the 1974 and 1976 elections. With a blossoming political career, he decided to run for State Office. He made a move in 1980 and won the office of State Treasurer for Pennsylvania, replacing Robert E. Casey who had held the position since 1976. After his first tenure, he sought re-election for the same post in 1984, and won a majority of the votes, clinching a second term. However, his second tenure was going to be his last stint in politics.
How The Politician Committed Suicide on Live TV
Budd Dwyer bagged a second term as Pennsylvania State treasurer in a landslide victory, but little did he know he was approaching the evening of his days.
It happened that Pennsylvania’s public workers lamented over heavy taxes and other working conditions. Subsequently, it was discovered that employees of the Commonwealth of Pennsylvania made huge payments amounting to millions of dollars as taxes. To resolve the issue, the state sought bids from accounting firms in order to refund the heavy tax payments. After much deliberations, the bid was won by a California based accounting firm, Computer Technology Associates (CTA), owned by John Torquato, Jr.
Shortly after the bidding, the then governor of Pennsylvania Dick Thornburgh received an anonymous letter asserting that lots of bribery were involved in the bidding process that saw CTA clinch the contract. Investigations immediately followed and Budd Dwyer was accused in the process. The state treasurer was said to have pocketed a $300,000 bribe to influence the award of the contract in favor of CTA.
CTA owner John Torquato, his attorney William T. Smith, and his attorney’s wife were all indicted by the US attorney. But choosing lighter sentences over truth, Torquato, and his attorney’s family testified in favor of the federal government, supporting claims that Dwyer collected bribes from them. Budd was further dragged to the mud when four more witnesses testified that he was indeed involved in bribery during the bidding process.
Amid the trials, Budd Dwyer kept pleading not guilty and maintained that the contract was awarded based on the decision by a task force. His cry was never heard, he was instead offered a lighter sentence of five years in prison with immediate resignation from office, as well as cooperation with government throughout the investigations if he would plead guilty to the bribery allegations, but he turned it down.
Budd Dwyer was then sentenced to 55 years in prison and a $300,000 fine after he was found guilty of 11 charges that included mail fraud, accepting bribes, conspiracy, and others. The hearing of the sentence was scheduled for January 23, 1987, and Budd Dwyer was left helpless and hopeless. He had solicited for help from President Ronald Reagan, as well as Senator Arlen Specter to no avail.
Dwyer decided to hold a press conference a day before the sentence was to be heard. Repeatedly maintaining his innocence he bemoaned the justice system and how the stakeholders involved had ruined his life. As reporters started to leave the long conference, he urged them to stay and shortly after, brought out a revolver which he fired into his mouth. The man died and it was discovered afterward that he was truly innocent.