Formal Ethics Complaint Filed Over Free Gifts Taken by Corbett
The Pennsylvania Democratic Party has filed a formal complaint with the state Ethics Commission over thousands of dollars of gifts Governor Corbett and his wife received, which include a free vacation, private jet travel, and entertainment.
“Some of the activities reported do not pass the smell test,” says Pennsylvania Democratic Party chairman Jim Burn.
The complaint cites an article published today in the Philadelphia Daily News, which enumerates the gifts and examines how they may have influenced Corbett’s decisions as governor:
A Daily News examination of state disclosure forms found that Corbett and his wife, Susan, accepted $11,343 in gifts from business executives, lobbyists or lobbying firms in 2010 – when the former attorney general mounted his successful campaign for governor – and in 2011, his first year in office.
Besides the hockey tickets, Corbett or his wife were feted by business interests with Steelers playoffs tickets, private jet travel, seats at a swank gala for the Philadelphia Orchestra, a Rhode Island summer vacation aboard a businessman’s yacht – even money to help pay for the first lady’s inauguration gown.
StateImpact first reported the Rhode Island vacation in December, which Corbett disclosed in a late ethics filing. The trip was paid for by a central Pennsylvania businessman with ties to the state’s Marcellus Shale gas industry.
Rob Caruso is the acting executive director of the Ethics Commission and says he cannot discuss official complaints. He tells StateImpact the commission receives about 400 a year and roughly 50 to 100 turn into full investigations.
“Our job is not to determine whether a complaint is politically motivated,” says Caruso, “We have to look at the information that was submitted.”
Pennsylvania public officials are legally allowed to accept gifts, and the Daily News article notes former Democratic Governor Ed Rendell also took freebies. The law requires tangible gifts over $250, or gifts of travel and entertainment over $650 to be disclosed to the Ethics Commission.
At issue is whether Corbett may have violated a more stringent set of rules dating back to the 1980’s.
The executive order known as the Governor’s Code of Conduct bars members of the executive branch, including the governor, from taking gifts from anyone engaged in a business activity regulated by the state.
“[Corbett] should be leading by example. He shouldn’t be doing things that his underlings would be fired for,” says Barry Kauffman of the government reform group, Common Cause PA.
A call to the governor’s office was not immediately returned.