Pa. Governor Tom Corbett Swears the Bribes He Took Were Legal

In 2010, Pennsylvania's Tom Corbett (R) won the race for governor by running on a platform that promised to restore public trust in the state government. Corbett championed "honesty, accountability, and transparency," and he has released statements stating that he follows both "the letter and the spirit" of the law.

So why is he accepting thousands of dollars of gifts from lobbyists and big business? 

To cite just a few examples, Corbett has accepted tickets to the hottest hockey games from lobbyist Robert Kennedy, NFL playoff tickets from the CEO of the largest lobbying firm in Pennsylvania, private jet flights from the CEO of a chain of beauty schools, and a yachting trip from the CEO of an oil and gas transportation company.

Here's the kicker: In all of these cases, Corbett not only accepted the gifts, totaling upwards of $11,000, but later reciprocated by sketchily helping the companies in dealing with government. He repaid the yachting trip by taking the CEO on weeklong trips discussing trade and energy in Europe and South America. He repaid sports tickets with state backing in legal disputes or appointments to his committees. 

Sure sounds like bribery to me.

In Pennsylvania, the accepting of gifts by public officials is not, strictly speaking, illegal. The Code of Conduct only states that gifts over $250 (for items) or $600 (for trips, travel, etc.) must be declared. However, the Governor's Code of Conduct, a stricter set of moral guidelines for the executive branch, states that the governor cannot take gifts from anyone engaged in business relating to or with the state, which Corbett has done several times.

In March, after multiple ethics complaints were filed against him, Corbett responded by stating that because he was friends with the lobbyists, the gifts he was given fell under an exception. I imagine I would also quickly become friends with someone who offered to let me use his yacht for a week. In addition, Corbett insisted that the Code of Conduct was not strictly law and therefore, he was not doing anything illegal.

For someone who claimed to want to follow the "spirit" of the law, that response is laughable. It's clear now that Corbett's promises of accountability and honesty were nothing more than pure rhetoric. And I would ask for Corbett to come clean on his record, like Virginia Governor Bob McDonnell (R), but it doesn't seem like a reasonable request from a man whose actions have put him among the ranks of the nation's worst governors by nonpartisan group Citizens for Responsibility and Ethics in Washington.  

So, with the next election cycle approaching, the only real recourse is for Pennsylvania voters to get this man out of office, or better yet, for the state Republican party to choose another candidate entirely. July polls already have Corbett trailing the little-known Democratic candidate by more than 10 points, and his approval rating is hovering in the 20s. Someone who blatantly violates the basis of his entire campaign and several codes of basic decency is not someone deserving of the public's trust or public office.