The Arc of the Moral Universe
Dr. King said, “The arc of the moral universe is long, but it bends toward justice.”
That arc is particularly long in the Pennsylvania Legislature. Prior to 2014, corporations, special interest groups, and lobbyists could present private, unpublicized “gifts” of any sort, including cash, to legislators. Cash gifts were finally banned that year when an undercover informant posing as a lobbyist posted video of legislators accepting envelopes stuffed with greenbacks. Apparently, bribery was illegal everywhere in the Keystone State except in the halls of its Capitol.
The 2004 law still allowed “gifts” of merchandise and travel expenses to our public servants in Harrisburg as long as those “gifts” were reported. Between 2015 and 2021, legislators accepted a cool $9 million worth of merchandise, hospitality, transportation, and lodging. That will buy you a contract to pave a state highway or two.
“March On Harrisburg” is a grass-roots group that actually read that Gift Report and decided to publicize it. Ted Cruz may have politically survived jetting off to Cancun while his Texas constituents were freezing with no power last winter, but that would be a really bad look for a Pennsylvania legislator.
A bill in the State Senate would limit “gifts” to $250. It’s hard to have a good time in Cancun on $250 and the bill is stalled in committee. State Senate Majority Leader Jake Corman is sitting on it, hoping it goes away. Jake, you see, received $8,500 last year to “attend conferences”, including a week-long one in the Bahamas last February when the Blizzard of the Century struck the Keystone State. The sight of Jake lounging on the beach while we dug our way out of 28” of snow would not help his planned run for Governor next year.
The arc of the moral universe is particularly long in Pennsylvania state government, but it is bending, ever so slowly, toward justice. Hey, we got rid of cash bribes. That’s something.