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Legislators spend millions on private lawyers with little transparency

The practice, while legal, draws questions of ethical conflict

  • Scott LaMar
The Pennsylvania Capitol Building in Harrisburg.

The Pennsylvania Capitol Building in Harrisburg.

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Airdate: Thursday, October 21, 2021

A recent investigative report by Spotlight PA and The Caucus found that the Pennsylvania legislature spent almost $10 million on private attorneys over the last two years and often didn’t divulge what those lawyers were hired for. That’s even though the four legislative caucuses have attorneys on staff.

The investigation was able to identify some of the issues outside law firms were contracted to handle, including the death penalty, a pipeline, the state’s fireworks law, a ban on Medicaid funds being used for abortions and whether atheists can deliver the opening prayer on the House floor.

The investigative report by Spotlight PA and The Caucus also uncovered how politically connected law firms are hired for lucrative public contracts. The report points out that while the practice is legal, it can “foster a pay-to-play culture in which contracts are awarded to political allies.”

Investigative reporters Angela Couloumbis, Spotlight PA and Sam Janesch, The Caucus, appear on Smart Talk Thursday of offer details on their reporting.

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