The corruption conviction of former Virginia governor Bob McDonnell should send chills through Harrisburg, where gift-taking is as natural as breathing. And the Pennsylvania official who should be shivering hardest is Governor Corbett.
McDonnell was not convicted for corruption of legally defined official acts, such as making appointments to office, but instead for what Politico described as “fairly mundane things” like arranging government meetings for a businessman who was trying to promote a dietary supplement.
By contrast, the public record documents that Corbett has taken $18,658 in gifts from eight different people or companies doing business with the state and standing to benefit from the official actions of the governor and top officials.
The starkest case involves gifts given to Tom Corbett by shale-gas drilling waste-hauler and Corbett donor John Moran. Moran gave Tom Corbett two large gifts: a yacht vacation for the governor and Mrs. Corbett valued at $1,422.80 in July 2011, and free flights for the governor on Moran's private plane and helicopter the following September.
The fact the governor accepts big gifts from donors with regulatory matters before state regulators is bad enough, but more troubling are the benefits Moran got back from Corbett.
A week before shoving off on their the yacht voyage, Moran joined the board of Team PA, the state-funded economic development organization that Corbett co-chairs.
Then, a day before Corbett took his free air travel, he appointed Moran’s wife to the Pennsylvania Museum and Historical Commission and Moran himself to the Advisory Council on Privatization and Innovation.
And in March, 2012, while Corbett, his wife and Moran were on an all-expenses-paid Team PA trade mission to Europe, DEP closed an investigation begun during the Rendell administration into Moran’s drilling-waste hauling operation and found it did not need an environmental permit.
The governor did much more for Mr. Moran than simply arrange meetings with state employees, as McDonnell did, even though the Virginia case makes clear that arranging such meetings for gift-givers is quite enough to violate the law.
Corbett’s conduct — already part of the public record, and summarized in a report by the Pennsylvania People’s Campaign at http://www.scribd.com/doc/226947813/Corbett-Gifts-and-Influencefinal — is appalling.
Based on these documented facts, which are at least as damning as the evidence that convicted McDonnell, government-integrity activist Gene Stilp has filed a complaint against the Governor with the Ethics Commission.Indeed, the McDonnell verdict suggests that, at the very least, a full investigation by law enforcement with subpoena power should start immediately.