Ethics reform an issue for Dem gov candidates

Democratic candidates for governor are continuing to push government ethics issues in the aftermath of the canceled state sting operation that captured on tape at least five Philadelphia Democrats, including four state representatives, accepting cash or gifts.

U.S. Rep. Allyson Schwartz said Friday she’d establish the cabinet-level position of chief integrity officer to run ethics training and enforce the Governor’s Code of Conduct in the executive branch; enforce a complete ban on gifts for executive-branch officials; and push to enact an outright gift ban for all state employees and legislators.

She also calls for campaign-finance limits, though her plan does not specify what those amounts ought to be, and for a requirement that campaign fundraising and spending reports be filed electronically.

Currently, it is legal for state elected officials to accept gifts as long as there is no quid pro quo involved and the gift is reported in an annual disclosure form.  

“Harrisburg has violated the public trust. We have to stop the old boys club who look out for each other instead of the people they are in office to serve,” Schwartz said in a statement.

Katie McGinty has also backed a total gift ban, but on Monday added proposals to increase voting and to end gerrymandering of legislative and congressional districts.

McGinty said she would make it easier for more people to vote, saying that such expanded access to the franchise would help restore public confidence in government. She said that she would push for repeal of the state’s voter ID law, and for allowing same-day registration, same-day voting and same-day absentee ballots, as well as voting by mail.

In addition, McGinty would seek to establish an independent, non-partisan process for drawing congressional and legislative district boundaries, powers that are now in the hands of state lawmakers.

“Not only do gerrymandered districts fail to present a reasonable community of interest in each legislative district, but the gerrymandered districts too often guarantee the re-election of incumbents, which fosters the very partisan bickering that has created inertia and incivility in our political process,” McGinty said.

Tom Wolf was the first of the candidates to propose an ethics policy, calling for a gift ban and a prohibition on no-bid contracts for outside law firms, among other changes.