All in the family?

Tuesday was a good day for Gov. Corbett, as some of the biggest names in Pennsylvania's Republican circles came out to endorse him for a second term, including former (and popular) Pennsylvania Gov. Tom Ridge. It was a big, politically star-studded to-do that made for both positive headlines and great photo-ops for Corbett, who continues to be dogged by lackluster public support.

Which is why the timing couldn't have been more perfect for The Morning Call of Allentown's story (in case you missed it) about how the Corbett administration recently hired The Ridge Policy Group, run by two of Ridge's close associates, to lobby for the state in Washington D.C.

The firm is taking over the contract once held by Leslie Gromis-Baker, a Corbett political confidante who recently became his chief of staff. Gromis-Baker gave up the lucrative work when she took the $154,000-a-year top government job in August. According to state records, her firm had been paid $480,000 to represent the state since Corbett took office in 2011.

Aside from Ridge's group, the state will also be paying Pittsburgh-based Buchanan, Ingersoll & Rooney to represent it in Washington as well. That firm is run by Jack Barbour, also a close confidante of Corbett's and co-chair of Corbett's campaign.

Both firms were hired on Oct. 1 and each will be paid $120,000 a year for their work.

Jay Pagni, Corbett's spokesman, said the two firms were hired for their expertise. Asked if their connections to Corbett's campaign played any role, Pagni responded: "Absolutely not."

He noted that Ridge himself is not the state's lobbyist. That job is being done by the so-called "two Marks": that would be Mark Holman and Mark Campbell, both one-time chiefs of staff to Ridge, and who now run the Ridge Policy Group.

As for Buchanan, the firm will be representing the state specifically on health care issues, and the lobbying will be done by Tim Costa, a onetime executive deputy secretary under Corbett at the Department of Public Welfare.

-Angela Couloumbis

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