Gov. Wolf Can Lead by Example on Transparency

Today Gov. Wolf unveiled a series of reforms aimed at increasing transparency and improving how government works.

The plan includes limits on campaign contributions and a governmentwide gift ban. However, the governor's attempt to change the culture in Harrisburg does not include transparency for collective bargaining contracts.

Right now, the Wolf Administration is secretly negotiating contracts worth a combined $3.6 billion with more than 15 different unions—a handful of which donated to the governor’s 2014 campaign. Talk about a conflict of interest.

This arrangement should raise a red flag and command the attention of every policymaker concerned about ethics and transparent government.

Yet, instead of focusing on secret negotiations contributing to a rapid rise in state employee costs, the governor is calling for restrictions on political speech.

Campaign finance reforms, like contribution caps, only serve as limits on free speech and fail to address the primary problem: too much power in government. The money chases the power. For reformers looking to get money out of politics, they must get the politics out of money.

Rather than weakening the free speech rights of donors, the governor should focus on making contract negotiations with his donors public. Or, at the very least, he could publicize contract agreements and their costs before ratification. SB 644 and SB 645, which are positioned for passage in the House, would pave the way for both of these reforms.  

Refusing to reform a process that completely shuts out the public—while touting the importance of transparency—demonstrates a lack of sincerity and respect for taxpayers.