Energy. Environment. Economy.

While Touting Transparency, Corbett Declines to Explain Free Vacation

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At a press conference promoting a new government transparency website, Corbett refused to explain why he accepted a free vacation from a friend and campaign donor who does business with the natural gas industry.

At a press conference to promote a new government transparency website, Governor Corbett was reluctant to answer questions about a free vacation he took to Rhode Island last year, paid for by a friend who does business with the natural gas industry.

StateImpact Pennsylvania first reported the trip, which was originally omitted from Corbett’s filing with the State Ethics Commission in March. Instead, it was added as an amendment to the filing last month.

The updated document shows that a central Pennsylvania businessman, John Moran Jr., paid for the governor’s and First Lady Susan Corbett’s air transportation and lodging for a long weekend to Rhode Island in July 2011. Moran also paid to fly Corbett on his private plane and helicopter to events in Pittsburgh and Williamsport in September 2011.

Moran and his wife donated generously to the governor’s 2010 campaign. Shortly after the trips, Corbett appointed Moran to a 24-member advisory panel he created to look into privatizing state services.

At a press conference in Harrisburg to officially launch the new government transparency website, PennWATCH, the governor voiced his commitment to making information more available to the public.

“When I ran for governor, one of the promises that I made was to make certain that the citizens of Pennsylvania had a government as open and as accessible as possible,” he said.

When StateImpact Pennsylvania asked about the free vacation, the governor revealed that he and his wife stayed on Moran’s boat in Newport, Rhode Island for several days, but he declined to elaborate on the trip, or the other private flights.

“I don’t think there’s anything to explain,” he said. “I reported everything that I’m supposed to report.”

When asked by another reporter if it sends the wrong message to accept gifts from someone with connections to a state-regulated industry, the governor said he doesn’t see that as a problem.

“What would be a problem?” Corbett asked rhetorically, “If I hid it. I didn’t hide it.”

The governor’s press secretary, Kevin Harley, said the free trips were omitted from an earlier ethics filing due to a clerical error.

Moran says he is a personal friend of the governor and refuses to discuss the matter.

According to Corbett, the two men were not friends before he took public office.



  • Matt

    Good work. Here’s my suggestion. Ask him, “Do you think this presents a conflict of interest?” And get him to answer it. He’ll eventually answer no. And he’d be wrong, and he’d be told so, and he needs to be made to understand why this is a big deal. There’s no question whether it’s a conflict of interest. It’s a no-brainer. It would be an example in some Ethics 101 class. Here’s the conflict: If the governor doesn’t give Moran what he wants, the governor risks losing a) campaign contributions and b) paid vacations. He can claim that those thoughts don’t affect his decision-making. But he misses the point. The term “conflict of interest” exists because humans, even remarkable humans, are not expected to balance competing interests. This is a dictionary definition of conflict of interest. Please talk with your friends and stick with this.

    • Matt

      Another way to play it would be to ask Rendell, “Were you and Moran friends beforehand?” No. “Were you friends during?” Yes. “Are you friends now?” No. Then go back to Corbett. “Were you friends beforehand?” No. “Are you friends now?” Yes. And then just hope people put it together.

  • greg

    Blaming the always popular “clerical error” just doesn’t wash, especially when so much expense and logistics are involved. The follow up question I would have asked would be, “Just how stupid do you think the citizens of PA are, and when will you stop making silly remarks like this?” A little more Piers Morgan-ism is what is called for in the age of false equivalencies, self-serving spin on facts, and the prevelance of social media where it’s easy to see and share lies as lies and nothing more.

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