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Governor’s Crony Gift-Giving Comes to Light in PA

"I give this old pal a little bit, I give that old pal a little bit..."

“I give this old pal a little bit, I give that old pal a little bit…”

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Pennsylvania Governor Tom Corbett can’t seem to catch a break.  Every time he renegs on a campaign promise, denies rights to citizens, or sidesteps a controversial issue, everyone just seems to notice.  It’s hard to be a borderline criminal when you are constantly in the public eye.  Perhaps this is why the Citizens for Responsibility and Ethics recently named him one of the “Worst Governors in America.”  The watchdog group claimed that Corbett “turned Pennsylvania’s state government into a favor mill for campaign supporters.”

Now, Governor Corbett is in hot water for accepting gifts from donors who he eventually did political favors for.  This despite promising in 2010 to not only “bring honesty, accountability and transparency to Harrisburg,” but to “restore public trust in state government.”

The extent of these gifts is coming to light at a time when his approval ratings are already abysmal.  A study performed by a former Republican strategist recently showed that only 26 percent of respondents believe Corbett deserves to be reelected

ThinkProgress lists the questionable gifts:

NHL Winter Classic hockey tickets. Robert “Bob” Kennedy is the vice president of government affairs at University of Pittsburgh Medical Center (UPMC) and lobbies the government on behalf of his employer. He provided Corbett with two tickets to the National Hockey League’s Winter Classic and the pre-game brunch ($472). Ten months later, Gov. Corbett reportedly backed the UPMC hospital chain in a major dispute with a top regional insurance company. Corbett also appointed Kennedy to the public safety committee for his2011 transition team.

NFL playoff tickets. John “Jack” Barbour is CEO at Buchanan, Ingersoll & Rooney, one of Pennsylvania’s largest lobbying and legal firms. He twice gave Corbett tickets to see the Pittsburgh Steelers in their National Football League playoff games ($140 and $185). The firm, which receives millions in state contracts, also represents UPMC, as well as energy companies EQT and the Williams Companies, and numerous medical and pharmaceutical outfits. Barbour has long served as outside counsel to the Steelers and its owners. Corbett appointed Barbour as a co-chair of his 2011 transition team and to hiscommittee on privatization. When asked whether this contribution violated the state’s Code of Conduct, a Corbett spokesman noted that because Barbour and Corbett are friends, the gift was not prohibited.

Private jet travel to Pittsburgh. Frank Schoeneman is CEO of Empire Education Group, a for-profit beauty-school chain. He provided private jet travel for Gov. Corbett for an event in Pittsburgh ($1406.80). Ten months later, Corbett signed a billmaking it easier for cosmetology students who attend schools like Empire’s to obtain state licensure.

Rhode Island yachting vacation. John D. Moran Jr. is president and CEO of Moran Industries, a warehousing and transportation company with an oil and gas subsidiary. He provided for Gov. Corbett with private jet travel to a Rhode Island and a yachting vacation ($1,423) and private jet travel to events in Pittsburgh and Williamsport, PA ($902). He reportedly accepted this travel as state regulators were investigating whether his company was shipping waste without a necessary permit. Moran traveled with Corbett on a six-day European trade mission touting the benefits of fracking and a 10-day trade mission to South America. Corbett also appointed Moran to his committee on privatization. Corbett’s initial filings omitted the Rhode Island yachting trip, a mistake his press secretary called a clerical error.

Current polling shows that even against the current field of Democratic contenders, a who’s who of no-names, Corbett is behind by double digits.  His failed agenda and Pennsylvania’s job creation rank of 49th could cause Corbett to be the first Pennsylvania Governor to lose reelection in the history of the state.


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