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According to Mr. Castor’s testimony, Mr. Marrone quickly approached him and told him he could use Mr. Fumo’s connections to help Mr. Castor shore up support outside the county, arrange meetings with campaign donors and secure political endorsements. Mr. Castor gladly took the help, and Mr. Marrone was elevated into campaign meetings and operations.

When the tide started to turn on Mr. Castor, and he lost the Republican Party organization’s endorsement, Mr. Marrone jumped ship and actively started campaigning for Mr. Corbett, all the while being employed by Mr. Castor, according to court testimony. After Mr. Castor officially lost the nomination, he fired Mr. Marrone.

“He didn’t come to me and say, ‘I changed my mind,’” Mr. Castor testified. “He was sneaky.”

Climbing the party leadership, he also met Bob Asher, a Pennsylvania Republican power broker and another Corbett supporter. Mr. Marrone transitioned from a Castor ex-employee to legal counsel to the Pennsylvania for Victory 2004 Presidential Inaugural Commission, thus starting his career in the Bush-Cheney administration.

Mr. Asher, who served time in prison in the 1980s for convictions of perjury, racketeering and bribery in connection with a state contract, was appointed as a Pennsylvania committeeman for the Republican National Committee in 1998. He was named to that position by Gov. Tom Ridge, who eventually became the first secretary of the U.S. Homeland Security Department.

“I have the highest regard for the kid,” Mr. Asher said of Mr. Marrone. “He’s advanced on his ability and percolated up through the ranks.”

Mr. Asher said he thought Mr. Marrone would react differently if he saw the sorts of things going on in DHS that he witnessed in Mr. Fumo’s office. He said Mr. Marrone had matured over the years. Back then, he said, staff aides were expected to do whatever they were told.

It’s true that Philadelphia politics didn’t exactly encourage whistleblowing, said Terry Madonna, who followed Mr. Fumo’s career as director of the Center for Politics and Public Affairs at Franklin and Marshall College.

“You’re looking at a state not unlike New York, New Jersey and Illinois for pay-to-play politics,” Mr. Madonna said. “But it’s pretty fundamental that you aren’t supposed to work privately when you’re supposed to be on the state payroll, and he was on the state payroll.”

“Ambition got a hold of him,” he said of Mr. Marrone.