York, PA - Today, Tom Wolf announced two simple government reform policies he would institute on day one in office to help restore Pennsylvanians' trust in their government. Wolf would institute a gift ban for his staff and appointees and sign an executive order banning no bid contracts to private law firms.
"It is time to clean up Harrisburg, and these two simple, commonsense measures are a good start," said Wolf. "Pennsylvanians need to trust that their government is doing the right things for the right reasons, and with politicians accepting gifts from donors and special interests and the governor's office assigning no bid legal contracts, the public's trust in government has been shaken.” As Revenue Secretary, I turned down the perks. I drove my own Jeep - not a state car. I donated my salary to charity and I paid for my own travel. I did what was right for the people of Pennsylvania and that is what I will do as governor."
Tom Wolf believes that stronger government and ethics reforms can help reduce or eliminate the potential for the appearance of corruption in state government while providing transparency to the political process. Tom Wolf wants to make Pennsylvania a national leader in transparency and accountability in politics. Tom Wolf wants to take a different kind of approach in Harrisburg and implement real state ethics and government contracting reforms.
Tom will sign an Executive Order banning “no bid” contracts to private law firms and requiring the Office of General Counsel to issue written justification for the need and the cost effectiveness of hiring outside counsel.
Written justification would be required before any contracts for outside counsel could be considered under a Wolf administration, and any hiring of outside law firms would be through competitive bids. In that way, the public will know why a law firm’s services were needed in the first place and how they were hired to meet those legal needs.
Tom Wolf wants to go further on government reforms and place strict limits on the “gifts” that state elected officials and state civil servants are allowed to accept. Current “gift” laws in Pennsylvania are too lax and require reporting only long after gifts have been received – sometimes almost a year later. The Lehigh Valley Express Times recently outlined the case against the current policy and recent gifts.
Getting Rid of “Gifts” as a Way to Do Business in Harrisburg
As governor, Tom Wolf will take steps to reduce the influence of “gift giving” and increase the public’s access to information on any “gifts” received by elected officials and civil servants.
First, Tom Wolf will establishing a gift ban for all of his political appointees in state government. Tom’s rule on “gifts” for himself, his Governor’s Office staff and his political appointees to state Agencies and state Boards will be a simple one: “just say no thanks.” The rule will easy to apply and easy to report - no free lunches, no free tickets to ball games and no free trips to conferences or vacation resorts. This approach will not require new laws or regulations, just Tom Wolf’s requirement that if you come and work for us in Harrisburg, there will be no “gifts” as part of your job.
Second, Tom Wolf will introduce legislation setting stricter limits and reporting requirements for all state employees and elected officials banning any “gifts” over $25 in value. Recipients of gifts of $25 or less will be required to submit a report of the name, address and employer of the donor within thirty days of receipt and a summary report of all gifts received during the previous calendar year by January 15th of the following year. Accepting gifts above the $25 threshold or failing to report gifts received will be punishable by a civil fine that can be deducted from the paycheck of an elected official or civil servant.
These two simple rules will go a long way to restoring public trust and integrity in Harrisburg. Both rules are simple to administer, post online and will not cost taxpayers any additional funding. It’s time for a change in Harrisburg and a different approach towards the inside game between lobbyists, interested players and state government. Tom Wolf will make sure that voters will have easy and transparent access to information on “gifts” to elected officials and civil servants that his staff will say “no thanks” to all gifts however large or small.
Eliminating Crony Contracts for Law Firms
Governor Corbett has spent the last year paying private law firms millions in taxpayer dollars to pursue his own political agenda. At a time when school districts across the state are struggling to close budget holes, public transit systems are planning to drastically scale back services, and hardworking Pennsylvanians have extended commutes because our infrastructure is crumbling, it’s unacceptable to be wasting taxpayer dollars on political games.
Since 2012, Corbett’s office has spent at least $6.4 million on outside counsel to assist in his scheme to privatize the Pennsylvania Lottery, which would put thousands of middle class jobs at risk; defend the unwarranted Voter Identification law; pursue a baseless lawsuit against the NCAA; and argue unsuccessfully that the state does not have a constitutional responsibility to provide adequate funding to public schools. This total does not include the millions of taxpayers’ dollars that will be spent to defend Corbett’s gay marriage ban.
And to make matters worse, there is no transparency in Corbett’s hiring of outside counsel. Rather, it appears that Corbett is using taxpayer dollars to make his friends richer. In the Chester Upland School District case, Corbett paid almost $1.4 million to his former chief of staff’s law firm. In another example, Lamb McErlane, a law firm hired to defend Corbett’s attack on gay marriage, has donated almost $40,000 to Governor Corbett’s campaigns.
Pennsylvania needs a leader who will end the pay-to-play culture in Harrisburg and protect taxpayers’ interests. As governor, Tom Wolf will issue an executive order to require the written justification of need and create a competitive bidding process for the hiring of outside counsel.
Before any contract is issued to private law firms, the Office of General Counsel will be required to issue written justification that the need for this support is both cost-effective and in the public’s best interest. This written justification must include evidence that the Office does not have the legal or financial resources to pursue action on its own, a detailed explanation of the time and labor that will be required, and a description of the specific professional expertise needed.
Once this written justification is approved, a request for proposals will be issued and a competitive bidding process will ensue. The competitive bidding process will take into account such factors as an applicant’s:
Potential conflicts of interest and political donations;
Cost, fees, and expenses;
Skills, expertise, and professional conduct;
Willingness to enter into alternative billing arrangements; and
Compliance with Pennsylvania laws and regulations.
Like other competitive bidding processes, contracts with private law firms will be handled in a transparent manner. Requests for proposals, contracts, and fee payments will all be posted online. Additionally, to control costs there will be a fee cap on all outside counsel contracts.
Tom Wolf recognizes that there are occasions when government needs to act immediately. To ensure that the state is nimble enough to address emergencies as they arise, there will be a pre-approved list of outside counsel, which will be reevaluated every two years.
It’s time for a change in Harrisburg. We need a leader who is going to end this pay-to-play culture and instead work to revitalize Pennsylvania and rebuild our middle class. Tom Wolf will be a governor who’s committed to transparency and accountability, and provides the innovative leadership needed to turn Pennsylvania around.