Our opinion: Just eliminate gifts

We’ll begin by saying we don’t think Gov. Tom Corbett has violated any laws or codes of ethics in his and his wife’s acceptance of some $11,000 worth of gifts over the past two years.

However, we’ll take issue with the governor’s spokesperson who contended that “The governor’s actions have always been, and will continue to be, transparent and free of any conflict of interest.”

That’s a stretch, particularly when the governor is asking a state court to make him exempt from a key requirement of the state’s Right to Know Act.

The Corbetts, who are familiar with the requirement that they report any gifts over a certain amount, have, indeed, complied. They dutifully listed a private jet flight from Harrisburg to Pittsburgh to attend a function paid for by a beauty school operator a few months before Corbett signed a bill making it easier for cosmotology graduates to receive a state license. They honestly listed a couple $2,500 tickets to a concert paid for by a powerful lobbyist group as well as some more minor gratuities.

The problem is not that the Corbetts are on the take. As far as we know they are not.

Their problem is political, specifically the picture the governor’s recent report paints of his relationship with people and institutions that come before state government with requests for legislative relief or to sway policy.

We’re not even saying that the primo concert seats or the private jet trips hither and yon persuaded the governor to look kindly on the givers. But, it could appear that way.

It seems to us that the appearance, even though slight, of impropriety in office is as damning politically as the real thing.

So, for the sake of the Corbetts, members of the General Assembly, and all those public servants yet to come, we suggest a change in the law. There should be none of this embarrassing disclosure, because there should be nothing to disclose. That is, gifts to elected public officials should simply be banned.

We can’t believe that Gov. Corbett, the sixth highest compensated governor in the country, is so strapped that he must rely on the kindness of strangers to live and play in a style to which he has become accustomed. We’ll bet he wouldn’t even miss the offerings.