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Corbetts accepted $11K in gifts; Dems complain to ethics commission

| Tuesday, March 5, 2013, 7:15 p.m.

PHILADELPHIA — Gov. Tom Corbett and his wife, Susan, accepted gifts including seats at professional sporting events, tickets to a gala for the Philadelphia Orchestra and private jet travel over a two-year period, a newspaper reported on Tuesday.

The Corbetts disclosed gifts worth more than $11,000 from lobbyists and business executives with interests in state policy in 2010, while Corbett was campaigning for governor, and in 2011, his first year in office, the Philadelphia Daily News reported.

The state Democratic Party filed a complaint with the State Ethics Commission, demanding an investigation.

State law allows elected officials to accept gifts, though they must list any gifts with an aggregate value of $250 or more and transportation, lodging or hospitality with an aggregate value of $650 or more on their annual statements of financial interest filed with the State Ethics Commission.

Among the gifts Corbett listed:

• Tickets worth $472 to hockey's Winter Classic, featuring the Pittsburgh Penguins at Pittsburgh's Heinz Field, and a related brunch on New Year's Day 2011, provided by a lobbyist for the University of Pittsburgh Medical Center. Later that year, as governor, Corbett helped broker a deal that resolved a high-profile dispute over a regional health care contract between UPMC and Highmark Inc.

• The chief executive of Empire Education Group, a Pottsville-based beauty-school chain, flew Corbett on a private jet to an event in Pittsburgh — a trip whose value Corbett estimated at $1,407, the price of a first-class plane ticket. Ten months later, Corbett signed a bill that makes it easier for cosmetology students who attend schools like those that Empire operates to obtain a state license.

Corbett spokeswoman Kelli Roberts said the Republican has complied with all state disclosure requirements.

Critics said that, while Corbett appears to be following the law, the gifts reflect cozy ties with special interests.

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