On Gift Ban, PA Senate Majority Leader Defers to Caucus

Jan 8, 2015

The new state Senate leadership isn't looking eager to clamp down on gifts to public officials.

The coolness to such ethics reform comes in spite of recent criminal charges against two lawmakers for allegedly taking cash from an undercover informant.

Republican Senate Majority Leader Jake Corman said, in this case, he's not sure how far ethical reforms can go to restore public confidence.

"People are breaking the law. We can keep changing laws and keep making new laws. If they're going to break them, they're going to break them," said Corman. "The legislators in Philadelphia who took the cash - they knew they were breaking the law. No change of the gift ban is going to change that. They broke the law."

In the wake of reports that a total of four lawmakers were caught up in a sting investigation and allegedly took money from an informant, some Republican lawmakers have called for a ban on gifts.

Corman said he'd let the caucus hash out how aggressive it wants to be about ethics reforms, but he likes the current set-up, which requires public officials to report the gifts they receive.

"I'm a big believer in disclosure," Corman said. "People can decide whether or not this is important to them."

A spokesman for the Senate's top Republican, President Pro Tem Joe Scarnati, has said a blanket gift ban won't work for people who have personal relationships with lobbyists.

Pennsylvania remains one of 10 states with no restrictions on gifts to public officials.