Wolf Asks Court To Block Request For Amazon Records

Apr 26, 2018

Democratic Gov. Tom Wolf's administration went to court this week to block requests for records of financial incentives it offered Amazon to build its second headquarters in Pennsylvania.

An administration lawyer asked Commonwealth Court to reverse an Office of Open Records decision deeming the records public and ordering their release. The Morning Call of Allentown requested the records.

Philadelphia and Pittsburgh were among 20 finalists for a facility that the online retailer promises will bring 50,000 new jobs and construction spending topping $5 billion.

The administration maintains that the records should be public only after the process is complete.

"It's an ongoing, highly competitive process in which terms that other cities and states could offer could change, so we believe it makes the most competitive sense for us to have appropriate leverage in the process to make sure Pennsylvania is best positioned to get this," Wolf's spokesman J.J. Abbott said.

Any state incentives offered to Amazon will require approval by lawmakers and will get a full public vetting before being made fully available to Amazon, Abbott said.

Rob Wonderling, president of the Chamber of Commerce for Greater Philadelphia, last year told The Philadelphia Inquirer that Pennsylvania planned to offer Amazon more than $1 billion in tax incentives if the online retailer built the headquarters in the state.

City and state officials have otherwise refused to disclose details, and Pennsylvania state officials in multiple administrations have long refused to disclose incentives offered to companies until there is a formal agreement.

Amazon's request for proposals before deciding the location of its second headquarters set off a competition among governments across the country, and many said they don't want their competitors to know what they're offering.

More than 15 states and cities, including Philadelphia, refused requests from The Associated Press to release the financial promises they made to try to lure Amazon.

A records request seeking Pittsburgh's bid was denied because the proposal is "exempt from public dissemination."

Amazon has said it will make its decision this year.

Nearly $250,000 was spent to create and promote Philadelphia's plan, including $160,000 by the quasi-public Philadelphia Industrial Development Corp. on a website and the written submission.