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 http://www.scribd.com/doc/226947813/Corbett-Gifts-and-Influencefinal. The report is also available at http://peoplescampaign.blogspot.com/ and http://progressiveparising.wordpress.com/