Spotlight PA Independent, nonpartisan newsroom operated by The Philadelphia Inquirer in partnership with PennLive/The Patriot-News, TribLIVE/Pittsburgh Tribune-Review, and WITF Public Media. Sign up for our free newsletter.
HARRISBURG — Activists calling on the Pennsylvania legislature to ban lobbyists from giving gifts to legislators believed there was a way around the institutional lockdown.
Towards this week, they announced that one of the unidentified state representatives would stand up and force a vote on whether the bill would be considered, as well as the Republican leader who controls what goes on the House agenda. Said he would resist.
But when one of the last scheduled sessions of the year wrapped up on Wednesday, no one stood up and defenders had no choice but to yield.
“We’re tired of talking to people like this,” said Michael Pollack, executive director of the good government group March on Harrisburg. “They make empty promises to us. They say they’re going to do the right thing. And they won’t.”
Gifts — including tickets to concert When sporting eventand travel to major vacation destinations — It’s commonplace in Harrisburg and has drawn the ire of activists who say it amounts to legalized bribery amid widespread mistrust of the government.
Lawmakers from both major parties argue that such an interpretation is too simplistic. Luxury travel rarely influences their policy decisions, and banning gifts is not a top priority for most voters.
Despite years of advocacy and high-profile protests, Harrisburg’s marches, including a 2019 demonstration that saw lawmakers drop dollar bills on the floor of the state legislature, have forced lawmakers to do the work themselves. has not yet been successful in persuading the government to enact one of its prerogatives.
In this session they rallied behind a compromise Specification State Rep. Aaron Kauffer (Republican, Lucerne) bans legislators from accepting gifts, transportation, lodging, and recreation of value greater than $250 each year from any one source. However, the proposal would allow lawmakers to receive free meals.
not like many statesPennsylvania law does not place monetary limits on gifts, and states that “offers or donations that influence the vote, official conduct, or judgment of a public official, official, candidate, or candidate for public office. We only prohibit gifts based on the understanding of the person. A Pennsylvania House of Representatives rule specifically prohibits cash gifts, although the Senate allows them.
The law requires members of Congress to report gifts of value greater than $250 and entertainment such as meals and travel as greater than $650 in the annual Ethics Disclosure.
However, these thresholds and the ability of lobbyists to spread costs across multiple clients can significantly skew the public’s perception of money actually spent on public officials and employees. ”. 2019 State House Survey found.
For example, in 2018, public reports cited nearly $40,000 in gifts, meals, and other hospitality for lawmakers, when the actual total was nearly $1.5 million.
Since leaving the committee in March 2021, Pollack and company have tried to get Republican leader Kelly Benninghoff (R, center) to schedule a vote on the bill, to no avail.
With the end of a two-year parliament nearing, Pollack and his fellow provocateurs have refused to release their names in order to make a procedural move to force a vote on the bill on Monday. recruited members of parliament.
Support for and opposition to the gift ban crosses party lines. Kauffer’s bill has his 22 sponsors of various ideologies, ranging from Democratic Socialist MP Sarah Inamorat (Democratic, Allegheny) to conservatives, including MP Frank Ryan (Republican, Lebanon). there is
But no lawmakers stood up to make the move during Monday’s legislative session. In fact, the conference room was adjourned while Pollack and his fellow activists were still holding press conferences about their efforts.
“Congratulations, Jordan Harris, for your win,” Pollack said, referring to the House’s Third Democrat when he learned of the state legislative adjournment. “Congratulations Kelly Benninghoff, you took this round.”
Spokespeople for Benninghoff and Harris declined to comment.
Harris has previously defended The cozy relationship between lawmakers and lobbyists said in 2019, “There’s a tension at the conference table that doesn’t happen at the dinner table, and that’s why people can actually get things done.” increase.
The lack of action prompted activists to converge on the Capitol on Monday to stop lawmakers from informing the next vote, chanting “We don’t trust you” and “Will the PA end bribery today? happens after dropping a banner reading “
In private conversations and exchanges, lawmakers from both major parties made it clear that they ignored activists, and marching in Harrisburg’s tone could win converts among lawmakers, staff and lobbyists. Many also seemed unfamiliar with the details of the proposal that the Harrisburg march was pushing.
A Democrat, who requested anonymity to discuss the proposal openly, said he “hasn’t looked too closely” at the bill “because it’s not going anywhere.”
“I have never seen a law passed based on being hostile to all humans under the sun,” the lawmaker said.
House Democratic spokesperson Nicole Reigelman said the bill as it was written was “unconstitutionally vague” and that the caucuses wanted to focus on capping state campaign finance laws.
Under current law, donors can donate unlimited amounts to candidates. Reigelman argued that adding restrictions would give Harrisburg a greater say.
while you are here… If you learned anything from this story, pay upfront and become a member Spotlight PA someone else in the future spotlightpa.org/donateThe spotlight PA is foundation and readers like you A person committed to accountable journalism that delivers results.
https://www.spotlightpa.org/news/2022/09/pa-lawmakers-gift-ban-legislature-fails/ Secret Plan to Force Vote on Pennsylvania Law Prohibition of Gifts Bill Fails, Lawmakers Shrug Spotlight PA