A Real Conflict of Interest

Governor-elect Tom Wolf has recently made headlines for urging a gift ban, prohibiting executive branch officials from accepting gifts from lobbyists, and indicating he would end “no-bid” legal contracts. He is also requiring his transition team members to sign an ethics pledge to avoid conflicts of interest. Here is the pledge: 

I will not solicit or accept a gift, loan of money, goods, services or other things of value for the benefit of any person or organization, other than the Commonwealth of Pennsylvania, which could influence the manner in which I perform my duties.

This pledge raises an important question: Will Governor-elect Wolf abide by it? As Pittsburgh Tribune-Review reporter Melissa Daniels notes, the governor-elect has his own conflict of interest on the horizon as he will soon be negotiating new terms for state labor contracts with some of his largest campaign donors.

Pennsylvania government unions contributed almost $2.8 million to Wolf’s campaign in 2014, representing four of his ten largest donors. Now, the representatives from his largest campaign contributors (union executives from AFSCME, SEIU and, UFCW) will soon be sitting across the table from Governor-elect Wolf to hammer out a new deal on state contracts. 

Obviously there is a clear conflict of interest in allowing elected officials to negotiate contracts that include collection of union campaign money, money which can then be given back to the campaign of the same official involved in the negotiations.

If we are serious about ethics reform and removing conflicts of interest, paycheck protection must be adopted.