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“If you didn’t stay on top of them, it wouldn’t get done and it wouldn’t get done to the senator’s satisfaction,” Mr. Marrone testified about the role he played in supervising the contractors. Emails he kept from his time working for Mr. Fumo were introduced in court, providing dramatic evidence of the corruption that pervaded the state senator’s office.

“That was the culture of the office,” Mr. Marrone testified. “You did what Vince told you to do. There were no boundaries.”

Victim or opportunist?

In the end, Mr. Marrone insisted to jurors, he was just a “victim of Vince” who chose to cooperate with federal prosecutors. There is no evidence that he ever required immunity to testify.

His self-portrayal as a victim, however, leaves some veteran watchers of Pennsylvania politics skeptical.

Marrone was brought up in the hard-knocks school of Vince Fumo South Philly politics,” said Randall Miller, an American studies professor at St. Joseph’s University in Philadelphia who has followed Mr. Marrone’s career trajectory. “Under Vince, he learned how to be tough and get what he wanted. Those skills no doubt helped him climb the rungs in Washington. He has a track record of not only playing with the big boys, but playing well.”

Mr. Marrone left Pennsylvania politics behind before the Fumo ethics scandal became public and landed a job at the Pentagon during the George W. Bush administration. He was serving in that job — and past his first federal vetting process — when the full extent of his history in Pennsylvania emerged publicly in federal court. He remains married to Mr. Fumo’s daughter, though the couple are estranged from her father.

In 2011, Mr. Marrone took a job at the federal contractor 3M and later landed with the aerospace industry trade group AIA, two entities with interests in his new employer, the Homeland Security Department.

Friends from the Philadelphia area who know Mr. Marrone — including some who went to prison long ago — said he has matured and would react differently now. Others who know him from his time in Washington praise his management style.

Mr. Gates, the former defense secretary, referred to Mr. Marrone by name in his memoir, calling him loyal, a good team member and one of the “key members of the core front office staff.”

“You need to have people who understand how bureaucracy works and who know how to build consensus, and I think Christian has done that in the Defense Department and why Secretary Johnson wants him as his chief of staff,” said Ryan McCarthy, former special assistant to the defense secretary, who worked with Mr. Marrone at the Pentagon.

Other friends familiar with his time in Philadelphia say Mr. Marrone’s past must be viewed in the context of Philadelphia’s political culture, where the line between public service and private gain was blurred for decades.

“The appearance of it not being kosher never entered anybody’s mind until the last several years,” said Jim Tayoun, Mr. Marrone’s godfather who served on the Philadelphia City Council before serving a stint in prison over corruption charges in the 1990s. He called Mr. Marrone a “straight arrow.”

From intern to power broker

Starting in 1997, fresh out of Penn State University, where he played football for the iconic coach Joe Paterno, Mr. Marrone scored an internship with Mr. Fumo that eventually led to a full-time job.

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