BLOG: Governor Wolf Won’t Accept Failing Grade on Integrity, Accountability Anymore

By: J.J. Abbott, Deputy Press Secretary

March 21, 2016

How badly does Pennsylvania need government reform?

According to a study done last year by the Center for Public Integrity: desperately. Pennsylvania ranked 45th among the 50 states and gained an ‘F’ grade overall. Here’s what they had to say:

“Earlier this year, Harrisburg made its first move to quell gift-giving scandals. As one of his initial acts in office, new Democratic Gov. Tom Wolf signed an executive order banning gifts for political appointees under his jurisdiction. Two independent agencies recently tarnished by scandal — the Turnpike Commission and the state’s ever-controversial Liquor Control Board — did the same. In part because of this move, Pennsylvania had an executive accountability rating near the middle of states in the State Integrity Investigation. But category ratings for legislative and judicial accountability were among the worst of all states.”

Here’s a closer look at our report card:
  • Political Financing: F
  • Electoral Oversight: F
  • Legislative Accountability: F
  • Judicial Accountability: F
  • Lobbying Disclosure: D-
  • Ethics Enforcement Agencies: F

While Governor Wolf has made big strides in executive accountability by enacting a gift ban, putting cabinet expenses and his calendar online and reforming legal contracting to reduce pay-to-play, there is clearly a whole lot more to do.

That’s why Governor Wolf has proposed these reforms to finally change the way Harrisburg operates:

Institute a Gift Ban for Public Officials: Governor Wolf is calling on the legislature to pass a gift ban that applies across government and builds on his administration’s executive order to ban gifts. The governor’s Gift Ban Executive Order prohibits executive branch employees from accepting gifts from any person who has business with or is regulated by the commonwealth. While the Senate unanimously passed a ban on cash gifts in 2014, in the current session, no gift ban proposal has received a vote at any level. There are many proposals circulating this session. Governor Wolf is calling on the legislature to pass a comprehensive gift ban this session.

Require disclosure of the amount of compensation received by public employees from outside employment and ban paid service on corporate boards: In Pennsylvania, some public officials earn income outside of their duties in public service. Officials are currently required to disclose sources of outside income, but not the amount paid, or any information about the work that was performed. Governor Wolf is calling on the legislature to pass a bill that would require legislators and all other public employees to disclose the amount of compensation they receive from outside employment, within specified bands.

Implement broader “pay-to-play” provisions requiring the disclosure of campaign contributions made by parties seeking contracts: Governor Wolf is calling on the legislature to pass requirements related to disclosure of campaign donations in connection with state contracts. The governor supports legislation that would require businesses that have been awarded contracts to disclose all political contributions made by its officers and employees during the preceding year. These disclosures would be posted on the Department of State website.

Increase the Department of State’s ability to review lobbying disclosures and make referrals to the Ethics Commission: Governor Wolf will increase staffing at the Department of State to crack down on lobbyists by randomly reviewing lobbying disclosure filings for completeness and accuracy. Lobbying disclosure auditors would be tasked with initial compliance oversight of all filed returns, and upon either a failure to disclose, or material defect in either the reporting requirements or expense accounting, the auditors would have authority to conduct further forensic audits of the lobbyist or principal’s records to verify the accuracy of the information provided.

Enact Strong Campaign Finance Reform: Pennsylvanians need to have confidence that decisions made by their government are the product of a robust competition of ideas, not rewards for the special interests with the deepest pockets. Governor Wolf supports strong campaign finance reform that would for the first time place limits on contributions to candidates seeking elected office, implement aggregate limits for races, place sensible restrictions on Political Action Committees (PACs), and strengthen reporting and disclosure requirements across the board. In addition, this legislation would prohibit the use of campaign funds for personal expenses, including legal fees. Pennsylvania is currently one of only twelve states that impose no contribution limits on individual donors.

Governor Wolf is asking the legislature to do its part and bring these measures up for a vote. Join him and contact your legislator.


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