- Associated Press - Monday, March 14, 2016

HARRISBURG, Pa. (AP) - Democratic Gov. Tom Wolf is going to ask Pennsylvania lawmakers to put new limits on the size of individual campaign contributions and to be more transparent about income they receive from outside employment.

The first-term governor also is preparing to seek several other government reforms, including requiring contract seekers to disclose their campaign contributions and expanding an executive-branch gift ban, according to details obtained by The Associated Press.

The governor’s press secretary confirmed that the governor will lay out his proposals in a speech Wednesday.

Wolf also wants to strengthen the state’s oversight of the periodic reports that lobbyists file to disclose what they spend to influence public policy.

Lawmakers have steadfastly resisted calls for major good-government reforms, and budget gridlock between Wolf and the Republican-controlled Legislature has frozen action on many top priorities of both Wolf and the GOP for the past year.



Pennsylvania does not limit the amount of money any one person can give to a political campaign, making it an outlier among states. Only 12 states impose no contribution limits on individual donors, according to the National Conference of State Legislatures. The issue has not been seriously considered by Pennsylvania lawmakers in recent years.

Pennsylvania also does not impose a “pay to play” ban prohibiting government contractors or contract seekers from making campaign contributions. At least 15 states restrict such political contributions, as does the city of Philadelphia.

After taking office last year, Wolf tightened a long-standing executive order banning gifts to employees under the governor’s jurisdiction. On Wednesday, Wolf will call for lawmakers to pass such a ban for all state employees, including themselves.

Pennsylvania does not place a limit on the gifts that a public official can accept, and they are not required to disclose everything they receive. Under a 2006 law, public officials are required to report individual gifts worth more than $250, and when meals, hospitality or travel from a single source amounts to at least $650 in a given year.

Accepting anything of value in exchange for some sort of official action or judgment is illegal.

An Associated Press review of ethics reports from 2014 showed Pennsylvania state lawmakers and other high-ranking government officials collected more than $160,000 in freebies that year, including sports tickets and international travel. About half of the total involved donations for constituent events, such as senior expos, veterans’ fairs and prescription drug collections.

In Pennsylvania’s Capitol, lobbyists routinely provide lawmakers with free meals, drinks and tickets to expensive sporting events and recreational opportunities, including ski passes.

In 2014, lawmakers and other officials reported items including a $900 gun from a Friends of the NRA raffle, Philadelphia Orchestra tickets, free parking near a district office, an Erie Yacht club membership and turkeys, toys and Christmas trees to give away to constituents.

Meanwhile, four members of the state Supreme Court reported attending the Pennsylvania Bar Association’s midyear conference in the Caribbean island of St. Thomas in January 2014.

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