Legally, Gov. Tom Corbett apparently did nothing wrong in accepting paid trips from friends in 2011.
Ethically might be a different story, at least in the eyes of many of his constituents.
Corbett is a seasoned politician: He has also served as state attorney general, as an assistant district attorney and as a U.S. attorney. He should know better than to put himself in a questionable position by accepting gifts.
Last week, both The Associated Press and PA Independent reported trips paid for by Corbett “friends” John and Ann Moran. Mr. Moran is president of Moran Industries, a Pennsylvania-based company that specializes in trucking, rail and warehousing.
In one case, both wire services said the governor and his wife spent five days in July 2011 on vacation in Rhode Island with the hotel and airfare paid for by the Morans. The value was put at $1,400.
The AP also reported trips for Corbett valued at $902 on the Morans’ private plane and helicopter to events in Williamsport and Pittsburgh in September 2011.
To the governor’s credit, he did file reports, as required, with the State Ethics Commission and has answered questions from the media about the gifts.
Here’s where the governor’s actions raise eyebrows, as reported by PA Independent:
* A few months after the Rhode Island trip, Corbett appointed Mr. Moran to a 24-member advisory panel he created to look into privatizing state services.
* The Sunbury Daily Item of Northumberland County reports that around the same time, Moran’s wife, Ann, was appointed to a position at the Pennsylvania Historical and Museum Commission.
* Together, the Morans donated more than $75,000 to Corbett’s 2010 run for governor, according to campaign finance records.
* During the summer, John Moran Jr. was also named co-chair of the Team Pennsylvania Foundation. The organization was established in 1997 as a nonprofit devoted to economic development. It works to build partnerships between business and government.
The governor said he did not believe the trips gave the Morans a level of access not available to other residents of the state.
“A lot of people have access to me. They’re friends. Mr. Moran and his wife, Ann, are friends,” Corbett said. “I’m pretty accessible.”
It also should be pointed out that the Morans were appointed to unpaid positions.
But at a time when politicians are being heavily scrutinized – as they should be – the governor’s actions obviously leave him open to criticism.
We have no doubt that the governor and his wife could well afford to pay for a New England vacation, and that the governor could afford to pay $902 in airfares to Williamsport and Pittsburgh.
He chose not to.
We believe he should have.
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