Did the PA governor’s trip to the Super Bowl violate the gift ban. Spotlight PA

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HARRISBURG — The Shapiro administration violated his own gift ban on Dime, a nonprofit that received millions in state money, when he and top staff went to Arizona for the Super Bowl. I claim I didn’t.

Under a policy enacted in January, Democratic Gov. Josh Shapiro and executive branch employees are not allowed to receive tickets to recreational events such as football games.

The prohibition states that these employees shall not be “individuals or entities” to “have financial ties with the federation

Team Pennsylvania — a public-private partnership committed to improvement The state’s “competitiveness and economic prosperity” – paid for flights, lodging and game tickets for Shapiro and his staff.

Received by a non-profit organization about $1.7 million This is primarily to attract new business to the state, starting with the Wolfe administration for the 2021-22 fiscal year, according to the latest federal tax forms. In January, the Shapiro administration signed a new contract worth $100,000 and conducted research on how to do so. Incorporating Hydrogen Technology into Pennsylvania’s Energy System.

Overall, the state Given that the group has signed more than $17.2 million in contracts since 2007,according to a database maintained by the Office of the State Treasurer.

Manuel Bonder, a spokesperson for Shapiro, told Spotlight PA that the organization has a “decades-long history of working with countries” that “doesn’t quite compare to private actors,” so the ticket is He said he did not violate the gift ban. He did not respond to questions about the financial relationship the organization has with the state.

Abby Smith, president and CEO of Team Pennsylvania, said her organization does not endorse the policy and is therefore not subject to the gift ban. She argued that the contract her organization has with the state was not intended to be covered by the gift ban.

“[There’s a] The difference is that you have a grant that requires a contractual agreement, which is different from an extroverted financial relationship,” Smith said. “We are a neutral broker and do not impose policies or agendas.”

As one of his first acts as governor, Shapiro signed an executive order outlining the types of gifts he and his staff cannot receive and from whom. It does not indicate the consequences of violating it, nor does it say who is supposed to monitor staff and officials for possible violations.

Bonder declined to answer questions about whether travel expenses would be disclosed in Shapiro’s annual financial report. state ethics lawgovernment officials must report gifts over $250 that risk criminal and civil penalties.

Claire Finkelstein, a professor of government ethics at the University of Pennsylvania’s Cary School of Law, said the gift ban would include “anyone doing business with, or seeking to do business with, the state.” He said he would cast a broad net as to who was under his authority. work.

“If the Pennsylvania government is paying them for research, I think it’s considered a financial relationship,” Finkelstein said. “Whatever the practice at that organization, it doesn’t change the fact that it was really a gift to the governor and the exemptions to the gift ban don’t appear to apply.”

Finkelstein added that he didn’t see the governor’s attendance at the Super Bowl as a problem, but questioned how the trip should have been paid for. If she attended, she said the trip should have been paid for with public funds. He said it was to raise the profile of Pennsylvania by being seen.)

David Maialetti / Philadelphia Inquirer

Pennsylvania Governor Josh Shapiro attended the 2023 Super Bowl in Arizona with Mike Parson and Rossi Moreale.

This isn’t the first time Team Pennsylvania has funded an expensive trip for the governor. The group has arranged and funded similar outings since 1997, when former Republican Gov. Tom He Ridge assembled a group of business executives among Ridge’s management to form the group. own effort Widely review and repeal state regulations.

year 2012Team Pennsylvania paid for Republican Governor Tom Corbett and a small entourage to visit Lyon and Paris, France, then Stuttgart and Düsseldorf, Germany, to meet with business executives.

Smith said in an email that the group also funds trips for governors to “major golf tournaments” to meet with executives.

Team Pennsylvania had $9.9 million in “financial resources,” according to. Its 2021-22 Annual ReportIn recent years he has spent money on a combination of economic research, public relations and travel, including a trip to the Netherlands by the group’s agricultural policy experts.

Federal tax law does not require Team Pennsylvania, a 501(c)3 nonprofit organization, to identify its donors, and Smith declined to answer specific questions about who contributed to the organization. I didn’t. In its latest annual report, the team lists many “investors” from companies whose Pennsylvania board of directors has top his executives.

Co-chairing the organization with Shapiro now is a lobbyist for the Harrisburg law firm McNees Wallace & Nurick, which provides legal services to the governor’s office, state agencies and commissions.

Executive Shell, Consol Energy, First Energy, St. Luke’s University Health Network, Carnegie Mellon University, and the International Brotherhood of Electrical Workers are also on the board.

Any member of the public can be nominated to the board, Smith said, but the organization’s bylaws stipulate that the candidate should hold a leadership role in the relevant organization.

The nonprofit supports goals like decarbonizing the state’s energy production and boosting manufacturing, according to its annual report. These goals may directly benefit the director’s company.

In September 2022, the Group will study He advocated for Pennsylvania to strengthen its hydrogen production and CO2 management industries to help meet its carbon reduction goals.

Shortly thereafter, parliament passed it Former Democratic Gov. Tom Wolfe signed a $2 billion tax credit package, half of which went to companies that built industrial facilities to produce hydrogen fuel in Pennsylvania. Leading up to its passage, lobbyists supporting the deal frequently pointed to Team Pennsylvania’s reports.

The Pennsylvania team then applied for federal incentives to attract such facilities in November on behalf of the state government. Shell, who has executives on the Board of Directors of Team Pennsylvania, 1 of 2 If the federal government accepts Pennsylvania’s bid, it will build and operate the hub.

“Team Pennsylvania’s ability to accelerate economic growth through public-private partnerships will be leveraged to support the application for a hydrogen hub that will keep Pennsylvania economically competitive for generations to come,” said Team Pennsylvania’s chief executive. Executive Director Smith said in a news release. release at the time.

In an interview with Spotlight PA, Smith downplayed the organization’s role in policy setting. She argued that the group provided a forum for private interests to meet with public sector officials to discuss policies, and that business and government working together would benefit the state’s economy. Stated.

But environmental advocates criticized The tax credit package emphasized the connection between Team Pennsylvania, its supporters, and its policy prescriptions.

Patrick McDonnell, former environment secretary for Wolfe and current chief executive of the environmental group PennFuture, said: “The report from Team PA involved fossil fuel concerns in its drafting. Given , it is not surprising that we concluded that dirty hydrogen is a viable route.” .

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