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Former Rep. Joe McDade Dies at 85

Pennsylvania Republican was cleared of bribery charges in 1996

Former Rep. Joe McDade listens as colleagues pay tribute to him on the House floor upon his retirement from Congress in 1998. (
Former Rep. Joe McDade listens as colleagues pay tribute to him on the House floor upon his retirement from Congress in 1998. (

Former Pennsylvania Rep. Joseph M. McDade, who served 18 terms in Congress, died Sunday at his home in Fairfax, Virginia. He was 85.

McDade had previously been the top Republican on the House Appropriations Committee and was known for bringing federal money to Pennsylvania.

But in 1992, he was indicted for receiving campaign contributions, free flights, golf equipment, and scholarships for his son in exchange for federal contracts.

At the time, he was the longest-serving Republican in the House.

The indictment cost him the ability to become chairman of the House Appropriations Committee when Republicans took back the House in 1994.

After a seven-week trial, McDade was cleared of the charges in 1996. When asked how he paid for some of the items, he said, “Blood, sweat and toil.”

McDade acknowledged that he should have reimbursed companies for the free airplane rides he was given, but he said it was an honest mistake. Aides for the congressman also testified and accepted the blame for improperly reporting gifts.

He chose not to run for re-election in 1998 after being diagnosed with Parkinson’s disease during his indictment and trial.

Despite his legal troubles, McDade still received widespread support from his constituents, running unopposed in 1992 and winning with 66 percent and 60 percent of the vote in 1994 and 1996, respectively.

Similarly, McDade was criticized for his push to make the Steamtown National Historic Site into a National Park Service site, which cost the federal government $70 million, The (Allentown) Morning Call reported.

While critics said the site’s trains had nothing to do with Scranton, which anchored his district, and noted that it was next to a shopping mall, McDade said it was a way to boost tourism.

McDade was born in Scranton in 1931 and graduated from the University of Notre Dame in 1953 before earning his law degree at the University of Pennsylvania three years later.

After becoming as city solicitor in 1962, he was elected to the House that same year.

McDade is survived by his wife Sarah, five children and six grandchildren. 

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