Gov. Tom Wolf Thursday outlined his “Government that Works” Reform Plan which calls for the banning of gifts, contracting reform, increasing lobbying oversight, and increasing transparency.
“Since taking office, I’ve taken significant steps forward in making our government more open and transparent,” said Gov. Wolf. “However, special interests still wield too much power and influence in Harrisburg, which is one of the reasons why it has been, and continues to be, broken. We need to take on the special interests and status quo, and that starts with passing a ban on gifts for all public officials, contracting reform, increasing lobbying oversight, and increasing transparency across all of government.”
Last year, Gov. Wolf took several actions to reform government in Pennsylvania and restore public trust in their government. He signed executive orders banning gifts and reforming legal contracting. He implemented policies of posting his calendar and expenses - along with the expenses of his cabinet secretaries - online.
Gov. Wolf is now calling for a number of reforms that would increase transparency and accountability across all of state government.
Gov. Wolf called for a gift ban that applies across all of government and builds on his administration’s executive order to ban gifts.
The governor’s Gift Ban Executive Order prohibits executive branch employees from accepting gifts from any person who has business with or is regulated by the Commonwealth.
Many boards and commissions – including the PLCB and the Turnpike Commission – have implemented a gift ban, but more action is needed to make a ban permanent and to apply it broadly across government in Pennsylvania government.
Pennsylvania is one of ten states with no specific law on limits on gifts to public officials, who are free to take any gift—including cash—so long as the gift is disclosed.
The priority for the governor is a gift ban that curtails the ability of special interests to influence public officials with gifts and restores public trust in their government. Regardless of what becomes law, the governor will keep his executive order in place, but he wants a law that allows a gift ban to exist past his administration.
Disclosure Of Outside Income
In Pennsylvania, some public officials earn income outside of their duties in public service.
Officials are currently required to disclose sources of outside income, but not the amount paid, or any information about the work that was performed.
Gov. Wolf said wants to ensure all public employees disclose the amount of compensation they receive from outside employment, within specified bands.
Implement broader “pay-to-play” provisions requiring the disclosure of campaign contributions made by parties seeking contracts.
Disclosure Of Campaign Donations/State Contracts
The governor supports efforts that would require businesses that have been awarded contracts to disclose all political contributions made by its officers and employees during the preceding year. These disclosures would be posted on the Department of State website.
Fifteen states and the City of Philadelphia require disclosure of campaign contributions for those seeking public contracts.
There have been several proposals in recent legislative sessions that would require companies bidding for state contracts to disclose campaign contributions and prohibit the awarding of a contract for specified types of procurement unless the contractor included with its bid response all contributions made in the past two years.
Increased Lobbying Disclosure Oversight
Gov. Wolf will increase staffing at the Department of State to crack down on lobbyists by randomly reviewing lobbying disclosure filings for completeness and accuracy.
Lobbying disclosure auditors would be tasked with initial compliance oversight of all filed returns, and upon either a failure to disclose, or material defect in either the reporting requirements or expense accounting, the auditors would have authority to conduct further forensic audits of the lobbyist or principal’s records to verify the accuracy of the information provided.
As required by the Lobbying Disclosure Law, every year the Department of State randomly selects 3 percent of all completed registrations and expense reports for audit by an outside CPA firm.
The audit consists of finding any possible violations of the Lobbying Disclosure Act with respect to lobbying registrations and expenses, and includes compliance testing and financial review.
The results of these audits are exempt from the Right to Know Law and are not published, preventing the public from knowing whether lobbying laws have been violated. In addition to strengthening internal processes for detecting incomplete filings, the governor supports removal of this exemption.
In Maryland and Virginia, lobbying disclosure registrations and expense reports are reviewed upon receipt for compliance and accuracy by in-house legal and program staff. Initial discrepancies can trigger further review into past filings over the last few registration periods.
In South Carolina, any failure to comply with the disclosure requirements may trigger an audit by that state’s ethics commission.
Campaign Finance Reform
Pennsylvanians need to have confidence that decisions made by their government are the product of a robust competition of ideas, not rewards for the special interests with the deepest pockets.
Gov. Wolf supports strong campaign finance reform that would for the first time place limits on contributions to candidates seeking elected office, implement aggregate limits for races, place sensible restrictions on Political Action Committees, and strengthen reporting and disclosure requirements across the board. In addition, the prohibition of the use of campaign funds for personal expenses, including legal fees.
Pennsylvania is currently one of only twelve states that impose no contribution limits on individual donors. By enacting strong new campaign finance measures, the Governor said, Pennsylvania can help restore confidence in government, and curtail the role of campaign spending in our political process.
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