Wagner joins Democrats at forum; all favor gifts ban

Democrats running for governor of Pennsylvania endorsed a state ban on gifts for public officials at a canididates’ forum in Philadelphia yesterday. The event also gave Philadelphians a look at former state Auditor General Jack Wagner, the western Pennsylvania candidate who recently came into the race with more moderate views than much of the field.

At the forum sponsored by a coalition of liberal groups, co-moderator Holly Otterbein of WHYY asked candidates if State Attorney General Kathleen Kane did the right thing in killing a public corruption sting operation when she came into office. Kane said the investigation, first reported in the Philadelphia Inquirer, was flawed. Others have disputed that.

None of the candidates were willing to second-guess Kane, but all condemned lawmakers who were reportedly recorded taking cash from a lobbyist in the probe.

“If anybody intentionally pocketed cash with the intention of not reporting it, we should call that corruption, and that person should not be in public office,” said State Treasurer Rob McCord.

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“No one who is engaged in public service should be engaged in that kind of behavior,” said U.S. Rep. Allyson Schwartz, “and it starts at the top. It starts with a governor being able to say ‘this will not be tolerated in Harrisburg any more.'”

Former state environmental secretary Katie McGinty said, “If this doesn’t tell us we need an absolute, no loopholes, no exceptions, no asterisks gift ban in public service, I don’t know what would.”

Wagner also endorsed a gift ban, but the Pittsburgh candidate who recently entered the race distinguished himself from the field on other questions. He noted that he’s against abortion except in cases of rape and incest, and he said he’s the right ideological fit to win the governor’s race for the Democrats…

“I’m a moderate, Wagner said. “I think our government in this country is at two extremes – one is liberal and the other is conservative – when the majority of people in Pennsylvania, especially because it’s a swing state, are moderates.”

The Democratic front runner, businessman Tom Wolf was in western Pennsyvlania and did not attend. The forum was also co-moderated by Daniel Denvir of City Paper.


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