Tuesday, August 4, 2015

It's that time of the year for elected officials to disclose travel and gifts

On paper, at least, many Pennsylvania elected officials shied away in 2012 from accepting travel, accommodations or other gifts on someone else's dime.

It's that time of the year for elected officials to disclose travel and gifts

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Pa. state  Sen. Jake Corman (R., Centre).
Pa. state Sen. Jake Corman (R., Centre).

On paper, at least, many Pennsylvania elected officials shied away in 2012 from accepting travel, accommodations or other gifts on someone else's dime.

Wednesday is the due date for state legislators and other public officials in the state to file their statements of financial interest for 2012, where, among other things, they must list sources of income as well as any gifts, lodging or transportation paid for by others (friends are the exception to the rule).

Gov. Corbett, who has taken heat in the past for gifts he has accepted, declared about $18,500 in travel, lodging and hospitality, mostly for conferences he attended, as well as his trade mission to France and Germany last spring. Disclosure statements for a number of people in his inner circle and cabinet were still not available by day's end.

Legislative leaders, for the most part, declared no gifts or other goodies in 2012. Included on that list: Senate Majority Leader Dominic Pileggi (R., Delaware), House Speaker Sam Smith (R., Jefferson) and House Majority Leader Mike Turzai (R., Allegheny).

Senate President Pro Tempore Joe Scarnati (R., Jefferson), had yet to file.

Sen. Jake Corman (R., Centre), chairman of the powerful Senate Appropriations Committee, said he accepted $5,283.15 in transportation costs from various groups, including his home county's business and industry chamber. His Democratic counterpart, Sen. Vincent Hughes (D., Philadelphia), had not yet filed his disclosure statement.

Philadelphia-area legislators, too, said they went gift-free in 2012. That list includes Reps. Cherelle Parker (D., Philadelphia), Mark Cohen (D., Philadelphia), Mike Vereb (R., Montgomery), Mike O'Brien (D., Philadelphia) and Bill Adolph (R., Delaware). Adolph chairs the House Appropriations Committee.

Sen. Andrew Dinniman (D., Chester) disclosed accepting $950 in transportation for speaking at a conference on animals in Santa Fe, as well as $900 in free parking at a bank located near his district office.

In all, legislators reported more than $43,000 in gifts, transportation, lodging and hospitality last year, a number that will rise as reports continue being submitted today, according an Associated Press report.

In the Corbett administration, while statements were not available for several people in the governor's inner circle and cabinet, there were some exceptions: Secretary of State Carol Aichele, who disclosed accepting $620 to attend two galas in Philadelphia.

Lt. Gov. Jim Cawley reported a $375 bowl that he received at the Man of the Year dinner held last year by The Irish Society of Pennsylvania. He also disclosed that he received just under $600 in books - some signed by the authors - on behalf of the state of Pennsylvania. All were donated by Richard Sand, of the Philadelphia law firm of Sand and Saidel.

Outside the administration, one former top official at the state Liquor Control Board, chairman Patrick "P.J." Stapleton III, said he accepted just over $12,000 in transportation, lodging and hospitality from the National Alcohol Beverage Control Association. The state Ethics Commission is separately looking into allegations that three top LCB officials, Stapleton among them, accepted gifts and favors in 2011 from vendors and other businesses with an interest in liquor regulation.

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Commonwealth Confidential gives you regularly updated coverage of the state legislature, the governor and the workings of the state bureaucracy. It is written by Angela Couloumbis in the Inquirer's Harrisburg bureau, based in the statehouse, and by the newspaper's far-flung campaign reporters.



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