In July 2011, Governor Corbett took a vacation to Rhode Island that was paid for by a central Pennsylvania businessman with ties to the natural gas drilling industry.
The trip was noted in a November revision to Corbett’s annual statement of financial interests with the State Ethics Commission. It shows that John Moran, Jr. spent $1,422 on air travel and hotel accommodations for the governor and First Lady Susan Corbett for a long weekend in Rhode Island. Moran also paid $901 to fly the governor on his private plane and helicopter to events in Pittsburgh and Williamsport in September 2011.
According to the governor’s press secretary, Kevin Harley, the Rhode Island trip was a personal vacation. He denied that the governor was trying to hide anything and said it was omitted from the original ethics filing due to a clerical error.
“When the clerk who performs this duty caught it, it was added,” said Harley.
John Moran Jr. heads Moran Industries, a Northumberland County logistics company specializing in trucking, rail, and warehouse facilities. A few months after the Rhode Island trip, Corbett appointed Moran to a 24-member advisory panel he created to look into privatizing state services.
The Sunbury Daily Item reports that around the same time, Moran’s wife Ann was appointed to an unpaid position at the Pennsylvania Historical and Museum Commission.
Together, the Morans donated more than $75,000 to Corbett’s 2010 run for governor, according to campaign finance records.
This summer, John Moran Jr. was also named co-chair of the Team Pennsylvania Foundation. The organization was established in 1997 as a nonprofit devoted to economic development. It works to build partnerships between business and government.
Governor Corbett is the other co-chair and his office was involved in naming Moran to the unpaid position, along with the foundation’s board.
Moran’s company has been profiled on the Team Pennsylvania’s website:
As he looks to the future of Moran Industries, Moran sees endless opportunities – especially given the company’s proximity to the Marcellus Shale gas play. The company has already constructed eight built-to-suit facilities for companies working with natural gas.
Earlier this year, Moran took another trip with the governor.
He was part of a six-day trade mission to France and Germany, funded by Team Pennsylvania. Part of the trip focused on promoting the Marcellus Shale:
Moran gave two presentations to foreign government officials and business owners updating them on the value of Marcellus Shale and the logistical advantages of operating a business in the commonwealth.
“The trip was great,” Moran said. “We had very high-level and productive meetings with CEOs and officials in Germany and France. They really rolled out the red carpet for us and were interested in learning more about Pennsylvania and the opportunities that exist here.”
Moran is a friend of the governor and refused to talk about the Rhode Island vacation.
“I don’t discuss my personal life,” he told StateImpact Pennsylvania.
According to the Sun Gazette, before Corbett became governor, Moran’s company invested $11 million in a 2010 project in Williamsport to develop an industrial park for a natural gas-related company. The project received favorable tax breaks under the Rendell administration through the Keystone Opportunity Zone program.
The paper quoted Moran likening the gas industry to “a blessing from God,” but he insists that natural gas-related activities represent less than 10 percent of his business.
Barry Kauffman, executive director of the government reform group Common Cause PA says it was inappropriate for Corbett to accept the free trips.
“We need to actually eliminate those kinds of activities,” Kauffman said. “Common Cause has been pushing for years to eliminate gifts by folks who lobby the state, or who have businesses regulated by the state. We need to make sure that the decisions of our public officials are based on merit.”
Here is Corbett’s revised Statement of Financial Interests: