The Tribune Democrat, Johnstown, PA

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May 1, 2013

Corbett, officials detail gifts, free travel

HARRISBURG — Pennsylvania state lawmakers, the governor and other public officials are disclosing gifts, travel and other financial details in annual disclosure reports that were due Wednesday to the State Ethics Commission.

Elected members of the Legislature reported more than $43,000 in gifts, transportation, lodging and hospitality last year, a number that could rise once dozens of other lawmakers' reports are posted online.

Legislators accepted travel-related costs for trips to Ireland, Arizona, Illinois, New York, North Carolina and Washington, D.C., among other places. They took free ski passes, entertainment and even a membership in the Erie Yacht Club.

The club sends the membership every year, said Rep. Flo Fabrizio, D-Erie, but he has never used it.

"It's in my district — I've never requested it, it just comes in the mail," Fabrizio said.

Public officials must disclose the dollar value of gifts worth at least $250, except from family members or friends, and transportation, lodging and hospitality worth at least $650 from a given source over the course of the year.

Freshman Rep. Mike Schlossberg, D-Lehigh, listed himself as president of Pocket Protector Games, an enterprise set up to design games for the iPhone. He's sold 19 Pocket Trivia U.S. History apps at 99 cents a pop.

"I am a huge nerd, and I will happily go on the record that I am a huge nerd," said Schlossberg, who recently restarted the company after shutting it down while running for office.

Rep. Pete Daley, D-Washington, said he used the set of four free ski passes from the Pennsylvania Ski Areas Association once this year, at Hidden Valley Resort. They were valued at $2,400.

Gov. Tom Corbett accepted travel subsidies worth more than $18,000 last year, including trips to Europe and Las Vegas. The Republican governor also received a vase, a robe and other gifts from the Turkish Cultural Center of Pennsylvania, and a $275 pen from an official in Oyonnax, France.

He reported five trips, including a six-day trade mission to Germany and France underwritten by the Team Pennsylvania Foundation. That group also paid for a three-day trade trip to Silicon Valley, near San Francisco.

Corbett and others recently returned from a similar trade trip to Brazil and Chile.

Corbett's other trips in 2012 were to Washington, D.C., and Las Vegas, underwritten by the Republican Governors' Association, and to the Republican National Convention in Tampa, Fla., where Pennsylvania Republican groups paid for his hotel and meals.

Lt. Gov. Jim Cawley disclosed he received a $375 crystal bowl as an award from the Irish Society of Philadelphia.

In the General Assembly, more than $15,000 in the reports consisted of donations for senior expos, youth fairs and similar events that lawmakers sponsor for constituents.

Rep. Rob Kauffman, R-Franklin, reported that a senior living facility paid $8,000 to underwrite the cost of his senior fair.

More than $4,000 consisted of volume discounts granted to legislators for their business-related stays at Harrisburg area hotels.

Rep. Daryl Metcalfe, R-Butler, said the $2,224 he reported from attending two American Legislative Exchange Council meetings was not for a vacation.

"It's related to my work as a legislator," Metcalfe said. "It gives me an opportunity to talk to other lawmakers, other individuals about issues that affect government or affect business, or advance government policies."

The reports also disclose outside business interests, including funeral homes, rental properties, law firms, day care, a poultry farm, an auctioneering business and a catering company.

Sen. Lisa Baker, R-Luzerne, said Wednesday she wanted to require the statements of financial interest be filed electronically and posted in a search-friendly format. She also proposes a requirement that officers with state and county political parties file the statements.

 

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