Barnes tickets prompt range of Pa. ethics law interpretations

     State law requires gifts to politicians to be publicly disclosed, but tickets to a gala celebrating the Barnes Foundation’s new museum that went for $5,000 per person went undisclosed by area lawmakers. (Nat Hamilton/NewsWorks Photo, file)

    State law requires gifts to politicians to be publicly disclosed, but tickets to a gala celebrating the Barnes Foundation’s new museum that went for $5,000 per person went undisclosed by area lawmakers. (Nat Hamilton/NewsWorks Photo, file)

    The way Gov. Tom Corbett and a few state lawmakers treated free tickets to a Philadelphia soiree shows a wide variety of interpretations of Pennsylvania’s ethics law.

    The Barnes Foundation has received more than $47 million in public funding since 2006.

    Last year, it threw a gala celebrating its new museum and gave some lawmakers and members of the Corbett administration free entry. For other patrons, tickets were $5,000 each.

    State law requires gifts of such a value to be publicly disclosed.

    Philadelphia Democratic state Sen. Anthony Williams’ disclosure form doesn’t show a ticket, though a spokeswoman said it should have been reported.

    Philadelphia Democratic state Sen. Vincent Hughes only reported receiving two free tickets after he was questioned.

    The Corbett administration considered the ticket’s raw cost, and not its price.

    The Barnes Foundation provided the bottom-line cost as $300. That amount falls below the reporting threshold under the ethics law for such gifts, though Corbett did report the tickets under a more stringent set of rules applying to the executive branch.

    His then-chief of staff, Steve Aichele, and Commonwealth Secretary Carol Aichele, who were also at the party, followed suit.

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