State House Sound Bites

Capitol reporter Mary Wilson covers Pennsylvania politics and issues at the Pennsylvania state capitol.

Corbett defends gift accepting policy

Written by Mary Wilson, Capitol Bureau Chief | Mar 10, 2013 9:50 PM
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The governor has recently come under fire by Democrats, after a story was published suggesting gifts from business owners and lobbyists had an impact on state policy. Gov. Corbett is fighting back against such claims, insisting his decisions were not affected by the more than $11,000 in gifts he and his wife disclosed accepting from people with some kind of business before the state.

Speaking to reporters Friday, he was quick to point out that the only reason people are talking about the gifts of things like tickets to the NHL's Winter Classic is because he reported them, in full compliance with the state's ethics law.

"We have reported everything we're supposed to report," said Corbett. "In fact, I report more than I'm supposed to report."

But he is less clear about whether he intends to follow the Governor's Code of Conduct, a stricter ban on anyone in the executive branch accepting gifts from people with a financial stake in state policy.

"We've been following the law," said Corbett. "Code of conduct is not law."

The Governor's Code of Conduct is an executive order handed down 33 years ago by then-Governor Dick Thornburgh. Corbett's spokesman noted the exceptions in that order allowing for members of the executive branch to accept gifts from personal friends.

Critics suggest regardless of whether Corbett is following the letter of the law, accepting gifts from businesspeople and lobbyists with some kind of interest in state policy is unseemly. Former state Department of Environmental Protection secretary John Hanger, a Democrat who intends to challenge Corbett in 2014, has called on the governor to pay back the cost of the gifts. The state Democratic Party has filed a complaint with the State Ethics Commission to investigate Corbett for accepting the freebies.

"The criticism is that it's influencing me," said Corbett. "It is not influencing me."

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