Hanger says Gov. Corbett violated code of conduct with gifts

Gov. Corbett violated his office’s code of conduct by accepting gifts from lobbyists and executives from regulated businesses and should repay the value of the largesse, John Hanger, a Democrat who is running for governor, said on Tuesday.

In addition, the state Democratic Party filed a formal complaint with the State Ethics Commission asking it to investigate “possible improper influence” in connection with the gifts and administration decisions.

Both moves came in reaction to a Philadelphia Daily News report that Corbett and his wife, Susan, accepted $11,343 in gifts from business executives, lobbyists or lobbying firms in 2010 –during his campaign for governor – and in 2011, his first year in office. The newspaper linked many of the gifts, including tickets to sporting events and concerts, to later decisions taken by the Corbett administration that appeared to benefit the givers.

“By accepting such gifts, [Corbett] effectively invalidates the Governor’s Code of Conduct that has been part of our law since 1980,” Hanger said in a statement. “If it’s OK for the governor to take gifts from those doing business with the state, then the governor is saying that other executive branch employees may do the same.”

The code, which applies to the conduct of executive branch officials and employees, was issued in 1980 by then-Gov. Richard Thornburgh (R), in response to ethics-related scandals in the administration of his predecessor, Democratic Gov. Milton Shapp. It has since been revised and expanded.

In relevant part, the conduct code states that no official “may solicit or accept for the personal use of himself or another, a gift, gratuity, favor, entertainment, loan or other thing of monetary value.”

The governor declared all the gifts on his financial disclosure forms, as required by law, and a spokeswoman told the DN that all of Corbett’s actions always have been and will be  “transparent and free of any conflict of interest.”

Hanger was the environmental secretary under Gov. Ed Rendell, and before that was a member of the state Public Utility Commssion. He is trying to get traction in the Democratic race to challenge Corbett against better known candidates such as U.S. Rep. Allyson Schwartz and Treasurer Rob McCord.