Thursday, May 29, 2014

Release: Report on Corbett's accepting gifts, giving favors - groups call for investigation

Corbett took gifts, contributions; Gave plum appointments, favorable legislation, and regulatory decisions to gift-givers

Government reform advocates call for investigation; ethics complaint filed

Harrisburg – A report released today by government reform advocates in Harrisburg, Philadelphia, and Pittsburgh documents government benefits delivered by Governor Tom Corbett to some people and organizations which had provided significant gifts to the governor. In some cases, less than a week separates the date of a gift to the governor and the benefit to the gift-giver.

 The report documents shocking facts that pose a stark question: Is Governor Corbett above the law? Corbett and his wife received a total of $18,658.00 in significant gifts from businesses, individuals who have government permits, contracts or are regulated by state government. The value of the gifts approaches the value of gifts taken by legislators and a judge in the notorious Ali sting operation run by the Pennsylvania Attorney General’s office.

 While the legislature and the attorney general’s office have investigated gift-taking by members of the General Assembly, no investigation to date has begun of the governor’s taking of gifts and providing benefits to those who gave.

 "Today, we are calling for official investigations into the governor's habit of receiving gifts and granting the gift-givers favors," said Gene Stilp. "This kind of crony politics where government benefits flow to a favored few able to gain special access and competitive advantages by greasing the wheels with gifts and campaign contributions must end. It’s morally and ethically repugnant and may be illegal.”

Gene Stilp today filed a complaint with the State Ethics Commission.

"Among the citizens of Pennsylvania, this is not a question worth debating. More than 90% of us want to prohibit public officials from taking anything of value -- anything -- from those seeking to influence government decisions,” said Tim Potts. “It's time for Gov. Corbett to lead by example and make state government as ethical as the people he serves want it to be."

The report also found that Corbett’s gift-givers contributed at least $1,132,050.48 to his campaigns for governor and attorney general. The gifts Corbett received include: a yacht vacation, tickets to high society fundraisers; NFL playoff games; a day in New York City including hotel, dinner and Broadway show tickets; and air transportation on private planes.

The benefits the givers received were favorable environmental permitting decisions, appointments to influential boards and commissions, government contracts, and support for legislation.

Allen Kukovich, former State Senator and State Representative, co-founder of Common Cause in Pennsylvania, an-Author of Pennsylvania’s Ethics Law, said, “For more than four decades I have seen how special interests have had an unfair advantage in Harrisburg.

“But I have never seen an administration with a culture of doing business that allows special interest money to have such an undue influence over state government. At the very least, it’s time to pass a law banning gifts to all elected officials in State Government, including the office of the governor.”

“Ordinary citizens and small businesses that cannot afford large campaign contributions or lavish gifts for the governor cannot get fair treatment or a fair hearing on their issues and concerns,” concluded John Hanger. “Corbett’s gift practices have torched the integrity of state government. Investigations by the Pennsylvania Attorney General, the U.S. Attorney’s office, the Dauphin County District Attorney and/or the Pennsylvania Auditor General can determine whether or not any laws have been broken.”

The report was produced by Pennsylvania People’s Campaign and Progressive Philly Rising. It was released in simultaneous press events in Harrisburg, Philadelphia, and Pittsburgh.

A pdf copy of the full report with a timeline spreadsheet detailing gifts received and government benefit given is available online at The report is also available at and


Corbett's Gifts and Favors: Government Benefits Received by Some who Gave Gifts to Corbett

This report was complied by the Pennsylvania People's Campaign and Progressive Philly Rising.

Executive Summary: Is Tom Corbett Above the Law?
While the legislature and the attorney general’s office have investigated gift-taking by members of the General Assembly and a judge, no investigation has begun of the governor’s taking of gifts and the receipt of government benefits by some those who gave. This report documents shocking facts that demand an investigation and pose a stark question: is Gov. Corbett above the law?
Gov. Corbett has delivered substantial benefits to several people and companies that have made large gifts to him and his wife. The benefits provided by the governor include appointments to state commissions, appointments to the board of the state-funded and controlled Team Pennsylvania which the governor co-chairs, a contract worth hundreds of thousands of dollars entered into without competitive bidding, and regulatory relief. In some instances, less than a week separates the date of the gift to the governor and the receipt of a benefit to the gift-giver.
A review of public records[1] finds that Gov. Corbett and his wife have received a total of $28,424.66 in significant gifts. Of this total, $18,658.00 came from people and businesses that do business with or are regulated by the state. Two major gifts, a gown and jacket for Mrs. Corbett, were given by designer who appears to have received no benefit; therefore, the value is not included in the $18,658.00. Also, not included in these totals are expenses paid by other organizations for the governor to attend conferences, meetings or speaking engagements or gifts that are plainly ceremonial. Gift givers have also made $1,132,050.48 in campaign contributions to the governor.
Gifts to the Corbetts approach the total value of the cash and jewelry given to legislators and a judge in the notorious Ali sting operation. But, unlike the Ali scandal, in which no meaningful quid pro quo has been demonstrated, the governor's gift givers, in several instances, received favorable actions—appointments to commissions and influential organizations like Team Pennsylvania Foundation, contracts, grants, and regulatory relief from the Corbett Administration. Based on the current public record, gift givers to the governor have received more and bigger benefits from the Corbett Administration than what has been revealed in the much-heralded Ali sting.
In some cases, the giving of the gift and the receipt of a benefit took place close together. The timing of these gifts and receipt of the benefit add to the need for a full investigation.
Immediate Action Needed
We are calling for a thorough investigation of Gov. Corbett’s acceptance of gifts and subsequent benefits to donors. We are asking the Auditor General, the Attorney General, the United States Attorney for the Middle District of Pennsylvania, the United States Department of Justice and/or the Dauphin County District Attorney to begin investigations. The next governor must re-issue an executive order on his first day banning employees and officials in the executive branch from accepting gifts. We also are calling for the General Assembly to pass legislation banning all government officials from accepting gifts from lobbyists, individuals, and entities that do business with or which are regulated by state government.

Appointments to Commissions and Boards, Favorable Regulatory Action and Legislation
The gift givers, in several instances, received favorable actions—appointments to commissions and influential organizations, contracts, regulatory relief from the Corbett Administration, or passage of favorable legislation. There are two examples when less than a week separated the date of the gift to the governor and favorable treatment by the governor or his administration to the gift giver. Repeatedly, a gift is given to the governor and then a benefit flows to the gift giver. Based on what is in the public record now, gift givers to the governor have received more and bigger benefits from the Corbett Administration than what has been revealed in the Ali sting.
A Special Partnership – Tom Corbett and Team Pennsylvania Foundation
Team Pennsylvania Foundation (Team PA) is non-profit charitable (501 C 3) organization created in 1997 to bring business and government together to work on economic development in the Commonwealth. Its board is comprised of state agency heads, one member from each legislative chamber, and representatives from local economic development organizations, utilities, labor unions, lobbying firms, universities, and variety of businesses and industries. Most of its revenue comes from investments and grants from the Pennsylvania Department of Community and Economic Development.
In 2001, Gov. Tom  Ridge institutionalized Team PA within state government by issuing an executive order directing state agencies to recognize Team PA as a unique and trusted partner. On May 3, 2011 Gov. Corbett signed an executive order that strengthened Ridge’s order by directing the governor to include Team PA leadership on all relevant state government commissions, boards, and appointments to other bodies.
A seat on the Team PA board is a coveted plum. Board members can anticipate appointments to boards and commissions. Board members also get direct access legislators and state agency heads and to unparalleled business networking opportunities and accompany the governor on overseas trade missions. Over the last three years, Team PA paid the tab for Corbett’s and his wife’s participation in three trade missions, a total of $25,578.84. 
A review of Corbett’s ethics disclosure filings and campaign contributions available online between 2008 and 2013 shows that:
·       Corbett and his wife have received a total of $28,424.66 in gifts from people and businesses.
·       The gift donors have also made a total of $1,131,050.48 to Corbett in campaign contributions.
John Moran
Campaign contributions - $141,833.06
Gifts - $2,324.60
John Moran runs a business empire from Watsontown, Northumberland County. His lines of business include trucking, rigging, warehousing, security, information services, and construction. He hauls waste over road and rail for the shale drillers. News reports indicate that Moran began to haul shale drilling waste the day before Corbett took office as governor, before he had a determination from the Department of Environmental Protection (DEP) that the operation did not need a permit.
Moran joined the Team PA board in June of 2011 shortly after Corbett signed the new executive order that directs the governor to appoint Team PA leadership to all relevant boards, commissions and other bodies. About a week after being appointed to the board, Moran treated Corbett and his wife to a luxury yacht vacation in Rhode Island. A few weeks later, in September, Corbett appointed John Moran to the Advisory Council on Privatization and Innovation and Mrs. Moran to the Pennsylvania Museum and Historical Commission. The day after the appointments, Moran provided Corbett with free air transportation on Moran’s private plane and helicopter. In March of 2012, Moran accompanied Corbett on the trade mission to France and Germany.
During the same time the DEP ruled that Moran did not need a permit to operate a gas drilling waste hauling operation in Sunbury. In June of 2012, Moran was named co-chair of Team PA at the governor’s urging.
Here’s the timeline:
·       Between 2008 and 2013, Moran contributed a total of $141,883.06 to Corbett’s campaign.
·       In December 2010, Corbett named Moran to the Economic Development Committee of his transition team.
·       On June 26, 2011, Moran joined the board of Team PA, an economic development organization made up of state officials and private businesses.
·       On July 1, 2011, Moran gave Corbett a four-day vacation on his private yacht in Newport, Rhode Island worth $1,422.80. Corbett initially failed to disclose the gift on his 2011 ethics disclosure form, but amended it later to show the gift.
·       On September 29, 2011, he appointed Mr. Moran to the Advisory Council on Privatization and Innovation Commission.
·       On September 30, 2011 Moran provide Corbett and his wife free air transportation with a value of $901.80 on his private helicopter and airplane.
·       On March 8 - 23 of 2012, Moran, in his capacity as a Team PA board member, accompanied Corbett and Corbett’s wife on a trade mission to France and Germany. Corbett’s and his wife’s ethics filings show that Team PA paid the $10,856.00 cost for each of them.
·       On March 16, 2012 DEP deemed that Moran did not need a permit to operate a truck-to-train gas drilling waste hauling business in Sunbury.
·       On June 18, 2012, at Corbett’s urging, Moran was named the private sector co-chair of Team PA. The government sector chair is Corbett.
·       Team PA paid $1,154 for Corbett to travel to Silicon Valley, California for a trade mission on September 13-15, 2012
·       Team PA paid $13,568.84 for Corbett to travel to South America for a trade mission on April 6-17, 2013. News accounts indicate that Susan Corbett also went, but her 2013 ethics filing is not yet available on the Ethics Commission website.
·       On November 22, 2013, Moran took over a distressed commercial property in Harrisburg for under $300,000.
Moran has clearly benefited from his close relationship with the governor, receiving appointments to a board and commission where he can establish and strengthen business connections at the highest level. Corbett made appointments of both Morans to influential commissions within weeks of accepting a free vacation on Moran’s yacht.
Blank Rome
Campaign contributions - $54,211.96
Gifts - $10,065
Blank Rome is a high-powered law firm with an office in Philadelphia. Between 2008 and 2013, Blank Rome employees have contributed $54,211.96 to Corbett’s political campaigns. The largest contribution was reported on December 31, 2012.
In 2008 and 2010 this law firm also treated Corbett and his wife to premium tickets valued at $10,000 to fundraisers for the Philadelphia Academy of Music. In 2010, Blank Rome bought Corbett a $65 ticket to the Phillies home opener.
In January 2013, Corbett gave Blank Rome a $200,000 contract to defend his administration from a lawsuit filed by AFSCME against his plan to privatize the Pennsylvania Lottery.
Vahan Gureghian
Campaign contributions - $332,714.25
Gifts - $500
Vahan Gureghian, Corbett’s biggest single campaign donor, owns Charter School Management, Inc. (CSMI) which owns and operates or provides back-office support for charter schools in nine states. Between 2008 and 2013, he donated $332,714.25 to Corbett’s political campaigns. The contributions include $136,714.25 in 2009. The 2009 contributions include two in November in amounts of $34,285.68 and $1,428.57. His 2010 Corbett campaign contributions totaled $190,000. In November 2009, Gureghian gave Corbett two World Series shirts worth $400, and in December the same year, he sent Corbett a gift basked valued at $100.
Gureghian still operates Chester Community Charter School, the first charter school he founded. Chester Community Charter School is the largest bricks and mortar school in the state enrolling half of Chester’s school children. He owns the buildings, hires the teachers, and runs the schools. Chester Community also pays CSMI a management fee. In 2011, the Pennsylvania Department of Education opened an investigation of Chester Community for possible cheating on the Pennsylvania System of School Assessment (PSSA) tests. In October 2012, the department closed its investigation. The department did find irregularities, but issued no sanctions against Chester Community.
Frank Schoeneman
Contributions - $48,382
Gifts - $1,406.80
Frank Schoeneman runs Empire Education Group, the nation’s largest chain of cosmetology schools. Between 2008 and 2013, Schoeneman contributed $48,382 to Corbett’s campaigns. In January of 2012, he made two separate contributions on the same day of $1,530 and $3,416.85. In January of 2011, he provided free air transportation to Corbett on his private plane with a value of $1,406.80.
In December of 2012, Corbett signed legislation that lowered the requirements for obtaining a cosmetology license.
The Silvi Group Companies
Contributions - $49,800
Gifts - $918.11
The Silvi Group provides stone, concrete, and other materials to road-building projects around the state, including the Route 202 widening project. It also operates stone quarries that are regulated by DEP. Between July of 2008 and April 2012, John and Laurence Silvi donated a total of $49,800 to Corbett’s campaigns. On February 21, 2009, the Silvi Group gave Corbett a day in New York City costing $918.11 that included lunch, dinner, hotel and tickets to a Broadway show.
In December of 2010, Corbett named John Silvi to the Economic Development Committee of his transition team. In January of 2014, Silvi Concrete received a grant from the Commonwealth Financing Authority in the amount of $244,222 to construct a public compressed natural gas fueling station at its concrete plant in Downingtown.
Buchanan Ingersoll Rooney
Contributions - $82,566.69
Gifts - $1,162.13
Buchanan Ingersoll & Rooney is one of the nation’s largest law and lobbying firms with offices in Harrisburg, Pittsburgh, and Philadelphia. Between 2008 and 2013, Buchanan employees donated $82,566.69 to Corbett’s campaigns. In March of 2009, the firm treated Corbett to two dinners with its CEO, Jack Barbour, with a value of $837.15. In January 2011, Buchanan bought Corbett tickets to two NFL playoff games with a value of $325.00.
Corbett administration advisory boards and commissions are peppered with Buchanan personnel. There were eight employees of the firm on Corbett’s transition team. Corbett named Jack Barbour chair of the Advisory Council on Privatization and Innovation in September 2011. The firm represents clients with myriad contracts, proposals, permits, and business with the Commonwealth, including the gas drilling industry. Buchanan lobbies for a range of legislation that would benefit both the firm itself and its clients.

The following gift-givers received no government benefit.
Martin Lane
Contributions - $88,488
Gifts - $1,800
Martin Lane is Chief Operating Officer, General Manager, and President of Aegis Security Insurance Company in Harrisburg. Between 2008 and 2010 he donated $88,488 to Corbett’s campaigns. In January, he contributed $1,800 to the cost of First Lady Susan Corbett’s inaugural gown.
Lane’s insurance business is regulated by the state.
University of Pittsburgh Medical Center (UPMC)/ Robert Kennedy
Contributions - $334,014.32
Gifts - $472.00
Between 2008 and 2013, UPMC employees donated $334,014.32 to Corbett’s campaigns. On New Year’s Day 2011, Robert Kennedy, UPMC’s vice president of government relations, treated Corbett to the Pittsburgh Penguins Winter Classic Brunch and hockey game with a value of $472.00.
UPMC is regulated by the state and has been embroiled in disputes with its union employees and Highmark Insurance.
Andries Couture
Gifts - $9766.00
Andries donated a ball gown valued at $8,276.00 to Susan Corbett for the inauguration and gave her a jacket worth $1,500 for her birthday in 2011.
For generations, access, influence, and power in the halls of Pennsylvania state government have flowed to those who make large campaign donations to politicians.
During the Corbett administration, the cash-corrupted culture of state government morphed into an even more venal form. Now even huge political donations are not enough -- state government has entered the age of the big personal gift. Lavish and expensive gifts have become the icing on the campaign donation cake, and in some instances, the gifts are so significant that they may be the cake itself.
The man most responsible for creating the culture of giving and taking big gifts by government officials is Governor Corbett. The taking of the major gifts by Gov. Corbett and the benefits flowing to some of those who provided the major gift is scandalous. It may also be illegal.
The actions of the governor raise substantial legal issues that should be fully investigated. At this point, public confidence in state government cannot be restored without such an inquiry as well as the banning of all gifts to legislators and those working in state government. 

1 filed by Governor Corbett available online at and Campaign Finance Reports available online at

Friday, May 23, 2014

Corbett lifts drilling moratorium on drilling in state forest for short-term gain

John Hanger today blasted Governor Corbett’s lifting of the state forest drilling moratorium in state forests. The moratorium, which was written by Hanger and former Department of Conservation and Natural Resources Secretary John Quigley was enacted by Governor Rendell by executive order in 2010 after an exhaustive scientific study concluded that further drilling would irreparably harm the state forest.

“This decisions is the result of the governor’s terrible economic policies that have left Pennsylvania 49th in job creation since January of 2011, reduced state revenues and created a $1 billion hole in this year’s budget,” said Hanger. “Part of Corbett’s strategy to fill that gap is to damage our state forests with more drilling.”

 “This one-time budget gimmick will have long-lasting effects on our forests and on the citizens’ ability to enjoy their public resource,” he said. “Corbett just does not understand that we cannot drill our way to prosperity, and we cannot drill our way to a balanced budget.”

“This decision is clearly so toxic to the public that the governor is releasing it late on a Friday afternoon before a three-day holiday,” continued Hanger. “Democratic and responsible Republican legislators should reject this budget gimmick and oppose any budget that includes revenue from more gas leases on state forest land.”

Monday, May 5, 2014

John Hanger endorses Tom Wolf for Governor

In these times, when many leaders of all types of institutions too often use their power to benefit themselves and use fear to divide, Tom Wolf stands out as a leader dedicated to the people and the common good. Tom leads not by appealing to the worst in humanity but by unleashing the good in all of us to serve higher purposes. 
Tom, however, is no dreamer. He is a doer. 

Tom has created jobs and paychecks and he has done so the right way, sharing profits and developing his own line of Wolf-branded products made right here in America. Tom's expertise in manufacturing is crucial to the future of Pennsylvania. Even as Tom dealt with the pressures of turning around his business, Tom has treated workers and customers generously. Remarkably, as special as his business leadership is, Tom is much more than a business leader. 

Even though he could have easily turned away, Tom Wolf for decades has run toward the struggles of our communities and families. I know so because I have known Tom Wolf for more than 10 years. Tom has tackled some of the most difficult issues, including urban redevelopment, tax policy, and education. When doing so, he always gave his time, money and powerful ideas to help the vulnerable, disadvantaged, or marginalized. 

The people of Pennsylvania are right to see in Tom Wolf a unique, special leader who is devoted to others more than himself. He has proven his selflessness and care for people - which is the highest quality of great leadership - in many big and small ways.

Tom's success in this campaign surprises and mystifies some people, but that success has a simple explanation. The people of Pennsylvania correctly judge that Tom Wolf offers the intelligent, caring leadership that Pennsylvanians crave. Tom and his message resonate powerfully with people all across the Commonwealth.

Tom's combination of true leadership, intelligence, and progressive plans means that he will be the great and transformational governor that Pennsylvania needs desperately right now so that the people can create more and better jobs and save our schools. Tom Wolf also will bring forth a new birth of freedom by protecting every Pennsylvanians right to vote, supporting marriage equality, fighting prejudice and discrimination, and by reforming marijuana laws. And Tom will restore integrity to the Governor's office by banning the taking of gifts of all types.

I  strongly, enthusiastically endorse Tom Wolf, because he will be the great, transformational governor Pennsylvanians need so desperately right now! Tom will be a governor for all Pennsylvanians, regardless of race, gender, sexual orientation, religion, and national origin.

I also endorse Tom Wolf because he has run a positive campaign that has consistently discussed the issues that matter to our future. Importantly, Tom has never forgotten that Tom Corbett must be defeated, no matter whom is the Democratic nominee.    

Finally, I came to America in 1970 as a 12-year-old boy and became a citizen in 1977.  For the last 37 years, I have had the right to vote. On May 20th, I will cast my vote for Tom Wolf, and I have never been more excited to vote for a candidate. Please join me in voting for Tom Wolf on May 20th and then again this November.