Gov. Corbett Takes Thousands In Gifts From Execs, Lobbyists

PA Gov. Corbett apparently thinks every day is his birthday, and it's perfectly normal for lobbyists to give him gifts.

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UPDATE: The PA Democratic Party has filed a formal ethics complaint against the governor.

My buddy Will Bunch has a piece about our ALEC-dominated governor Tom Corbett and his penchant for taking goodies from lobbyists and special interests who have business before the state. It might not sound like a big deal, but it's typical of the way Corbett operates. Unfortunately for Democrats, our Scott Walker clone of a governor is smart enough not to spout off in front of the cameras, so we never get any nasty little sound bites we did with Walker. But we do get a good idea of who's cozying up to him:

The records clearly show a casual, cozy relationship between the Corbetts and those seeking influence in Harrisburg.

For example:

*  On Dec. 12, 2011, Frank Schoeneman, chief executive of the Pottsville-based Empire Education Group, a leading chain of beauty schools in Pennsylvania and nationally, flew Gov. Corbett on a private jet to an event in Pittsburgh - a jaunt that the governor priced at nearly $1,407, the price of a first-class plane ticket.

Ten months later, Corbett signed a bill into law aimed at aiding cosmetology students who attend schools like those operated by Schoeneman, by making it easier for those students to obtain a state license.

*  On Jan. 30, 2010, when then-Attorney General Corbett was running for governor, the powerful Blank Rome law firm bought the Corbetts a pair of $2,500 tickets to attend the Philadelphia Academy of Music anniversary concert. Blank Rome also bought Corbett a $65 ticket to the Phillies' home opener in 2010.

Blank Rome operates a lobbying shop representing a number of powerful interests in Harrisburg, and in 2010 was getting more involved in issues related to natural-gas drilling, or fracking, in Pennsylvania. Blank Rome is listed as an associate member of the pro-industry Marcellus Shale Coalition.

*  In January 2011, when Corbett was becoming governor and his hometown Steelers were deep into a playoff run, his longtime friend Jack Barbour - head of the powerhouse Pittsburgh law firm Buchanan Ingersoll & Rooney - bought him tickets to two of the games, worth $325. Buchanan Ingersoll is also one of the state's most powerful lobbying firms, representing UPMC, as well as energy companies EQT and the Williams Cos. and numerous medical and pharmaceutical outfits.

*  When Corbett was sworn in that month, insurance executive Marty Lane, then-chief executivef of Aegis Security Insurance, donated $1,800 to defray the cost of Susan Corbett's inaugural gown and coat. At the time, Aegis was regulated by the Pennsylvania Insurance Department. (Designers Richard and Theresa Andries, of Andries Couture, also donated $8,276 in inaugural clothing for Pennsylvania's first lady, as well as a $1,500 birthday jacket.)

* As the Daily News reported in January, business executive John Moran of Moran Industries was running a fracking-well waste-recycling business in Sunbury, Pa., that was under scrutiny by the state Department of Environmental Protection at the same time he paid $1,422 for the Corbetts to fly to Rhode Island for a yachting vacation with Moran over July Fourth weekend in 2011. Moran paid an additional $902 to fly the governor to events in Williamsport and Pittsburgh on Sept. 30, 2011.

None of the gift-givers seems particularly eager to talk. The most expansive comment came from UPMC spokesman Paul Wood, who said: "The NHL Winter Classic was a major international event showcasing Pittsburgh and western Pennsylvania, and UPMC was more than happy to host the governor-elect and his wife."

Lane, the inaugural-gown giver, reached by the Daily News at his second home in Florida, said he'd have to check his records when he returned to his office near Harrisburg. "I don't have them right now," he said.

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