Pennsylvania Gov.-elect Tom Wolf says he plans to shake up the culture of Harrisburg by barring anyone in his administration from accepting gifts.
That will be welcome news to government ethics experts and advocates, among whom Pennsylvania’s rules as regarded as pretty lax, if not something of a joke.
In Pennsylvania, it’s legal for public officials to accept gifts of any value, including cash, as long as those gifts are disclosed in annual ethics filings.
Indeed, Gov. Tom Corbett was criticized for accepting trips worth $2,300 from a campaign donor, and it’s been reported four Philadelphia lawmakers accepted cash from someone posing as a lobbyist for the state attorney general’s office.
Wolf says he’ll ban gifts of any value to people who work for his administration. Spokesman Jeffrey Sheridan called it the “no thank you rule.”
“It’s easy to apply,” Sheridan said. “This is everything from not accepting a coffee to not accepting a free lunch — no free tickets to ballgames, no free trips to conferences on vacation resorts.”
Wolf says he won’t take a salary either.
Of course, Wolf’s gifts policy will apply only to employees of the executive branch. Lawmakers and their staffs will be unaffected. Changing the rules for them will require action by the legislature.
There was a flurry of activity in the legislature this spring over proposed changes to ethics laws, but nothing came of it. Wolf says he hopes to work with leaders of the General Assembly on that.