In only a two-year period, Pennsylvania Republican governor Tom Corbett and his wife took over $11,000 in gifts from lobbyists or “businesses with substantial interests before the commonwealth,” according to a report by Will Bunch in the Philadelphia Daily News.
The largesse, enjoyed in 2010 while the former state attorney general was running for governor, and 2011 during his first year in office, included hard-to-come-by hockey, football and orchestra tickets, corporate jet travel, a summer vacation in Rhode Island on a businessman’s private yacht, and an $1,800 “donation” to help pay for wife Susan’s inaugural gown.
All the gifts, say the Daily News report, appear to represent conflicts of interest:
Corbett may have violated a 1980 Code of Conduct for the executive branch that states that no official “may solicit or accept for the personal use of himself or another, a gift, gratuity, favor, entertainment, loan or other thing of monetary value” from anyone seeking business from, or regulated by, the commonwealth. The code says violators can be punished up to termination — arguably a moot point when the allegation involves the governor himself.
Two 2011 trips, including the Rhode Island vacation, were noted in a 2012 ethics filing, a revision to the governor’s annual statement of financial interests with the State Ethics Commission. The omission from the original filing was characterized as a “clerical error.”
Corbett officially takes a dim view of such conflicts of interest, making it quite clear in his mission statement: (PDF)
Pennsylvania taxpayers must trust that their elected and appointed officials are making decisions about awarding government contracts based on price, quality and experience. That is why Tom Corbett will ban gifts and political contributions from individuals and PACs to members and employees of the executive, legislative and judicial branches of government during the open bidding process when those individuals and PACs have an interest in a particular contract.
Kelli Roberts, Corbett’s deputy press secretary, insisted everything is above board.”Governor Corbett has been clear that he makes all decisions based on what is in the best interests of Pennsylvanians,” she said. “He has always fully complied with both the letter and the spirit of our state’s financial-reporting laws. His campaign-finance report and his state ethics reports are both public documents, placed on a state website for all to see. The governor’s actions have always been, and will continue to be, transparent and free of any conflict of interest.”