During his time as State Attorney General and Governor, Tom Corbett and his wife took thousands of dollars in gifts from an influential Philadelphia law firm whose clients include oil, gas, and chemical companies fighting state and federal environmental regulators.
According to a StateImpact analysis of the couple’s ethics filings, the law firm Blank Rome LLP has given them $15,447 in gifts since 2007.
The gifts include tickets to Phillies games, dinner at the swanky Pennsylvania Society gathering in Manhattan, and an annual gala benefiting the Philadelphia Orchestra —where their tickets cost $2,500 apiece.
Here’s a list of gifts Blank Rome has given the Corbetts since 2007* (you can read the couple’s full ethics disclosure statements here.)
- 2007: Pair of tickets to Philadelphia Academy of Music Concert and Ball ($5,000), ticket to Phillies game ($107), Pennsylvania Society Dinner ($275)
- 2008: Pair of tickets to Philadelphia Academy of Music Concert and Ball ($5,000)
- 2010: Pair of tickets to Philadelphia Academy of Music Concert and Ball ($5,000), ticket to Phillies home opener game ($65)
The Philadelphia Inquirer also reported the law firm was listed as a “Platinum Sponsor” for Corbett’s 2011 Inaugural Ball and donated between $15,000 to $25,000 to help pay for the celebration.
After Corbett was elected Governor, he appointed a former partner from Blank Rome, Michael Krancer, to head the state Department of Environmental Protection. Krancer worked at the firm prior to 1999, when he was named as a judge on the state’s Environmental Hearing Board by Governor Tom Ridge.
According to Blank Rome’s website, the firm is an associate member of the gas industry group, the Marcellus Shale Coalition.
Blank Rome has law offices around the globe representing many different types of clients, and a lobbying arm in Washington, which does work on behalf of energy companies:
Blank Rome Government Relations LLC, a leading lobbying and strategic communications firm, offers counseling to companies on oil and gas matters involving executive policy or legislative input and action. We also monitor and comment upon state and federal agency rulemakings and pending state and federal legislation.
Blank Rome Government Relations currently represents several clients on the complex array of regulatory discussions, severance tax legislation, and other policy matters surrounding the Marcellus Shale play before the Pennsylvania Legislature, the Governor’s office and the Administration.
The site includes a long list of cases that Blank Rome’s Shale Development Industry lawyers have worked on in Pennsylvania and elsewhere.
Here are a few:
- Negotiated a contract on behalf of our client, a major Marcellus Shale drilling services company, with a producer specifying the terms for a drilling engagement and also represented our client in connection with an OSHA onsite investigation.
- Represented a Pennsylvania-based service company in connection with a Master Services Agreement relating to the installation of liners for lagoons in the Marcellus Shale.
- Represented an industry association in connection with Pennsylvania’s proposed severance tax.
Blank Rome has long been influential in the state’s Republican circles. Several former aides to Gov. Tom Ridge landed there in the years after Ridge left Harrisburg to head the Department of Homeland Security.
Pennsylvania public officials are legally allowed to accept gifts. The law requires tangible gifts over $250, or gifts of travel and entertainment over $650 to be disclosed to the Ethics Commission.
However Corbett came under fire last week after the Philadelphia Daily News published an article listing more than $11,000 in gifts he and his wife took during 2010 and 2011.
Although Corbett did not break the law, he may have violated a more stringent set of rules, known as the Governor’s Code of Conduct, which bars members of the executive branch, including the governor, from accepting gifts from anyone engaged in a business activity regulated by the state.
When questioned by reporters last Friday, Corbett defended taking the gifts, “We’ve been following the law. Code of conduct is not law.”
When asked specifically about Blank Rome, Corbett spokesman Nils Frederiksen says the gifts don’t impact state policy.
“The governor has been very clear that the gifts he’s received have not influenced his decisions.”
Blank Rome did not respond to requests for an interview.
*The Corbett’s online records go back to 2006. The Pennsylvania State Archives tells StateImpact they destroyed older records of public officials’ statements of financial interests in December 2011.