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Friday, March 27, 2009

"Full-Time" Lawmakers Earn Plenty of Outside Income

Team 4 Reports uncovers that Pennsylvania legislators, who earn about $80,000 per year in salary for their full-time job, also earn plenty of outside income (HT Grassroots PA).

Some examples of how the game is played -- and remember, it's all perfectly legal:
  • Bucks County Sen. Robert Wonderling sits on the Game and Fisheries Committee and lists himself as a paid employee of a company that landed a software contract with the Pennsylvania Fish and Boat Commission.
  • Uniontown Rep. Tim Mahoney opened a new district office last month in Chalk Hill, Fayette County. Rent checks are going to one of the men Mahoney lists as a business partner in his annual statement of financial interest. Mahoney tells Team 4 the company was recently disbanded.
  • For years, taxpayers have been sending rent checks for Lackawanna County Sen. Robert Mellow's district office to a company owned by his wife. But Mellow never reported that until he got a divorce and assumed 50 percent ownership in the company. He didn't have to report it under the state's ethics law.
  • Rep. Mark Longietti sits on the House Local Government Committee and also is solicitor for Delaware Township, Mercer County, which applied for and received a state grant last year.
  • Lancaster County Sen. Michael Brubaker is owner of Team Ag, a company that advises agricultural firms about government regulations. Brubaker also is Chairman of the Senate Agriculture Committee.
  • Mechanicsburg Rep. Glen Grell lists himself as an attorney of counsel with Buchanan Ingersoll Rooney, a law firm with no fewer than 35 registered lobbyists in Harrisburg. There's no law against that either, even though Rep. John Maher tried and failed last month to get it outlawed.

Personally, I think lawmakers should earn most of their income from "outside" sources, and less from taxpayers - i.e. they should become part-time legislators, who also have real jobs in the private sector.

But taking payment for sitting on boards, commissions, local agencies, etc. because you are a lawmaker - particulary when those groups come to the General Assembly for funding and favorable regulations - is clearly a conflict of interest.

1 comment:

Nathan Benefield said...

Rep. Glen Grell responds by email:

Your blog entry about me neglects to point out that I severed my relationship with Buchanan Ingersoll and Rooney in April 2007, shortly after the merger that caused the firm to have 35 lobbyists. I left because I felt it was not appropriate for me to continue my affiliation under these circumstances (even though I wasn't lobbying or working with any of the firm's lobbying clients).

I also voted in favor of John Maher's effort to change our House Rules to prohibit such relationships.

Never let the facts get in the way of a juicy blog entry.

My Reply:

The blog post merely quotes a selection from the News 4 story, which does later mention that you have left the firm. And there is no implication that you opposed Maher’s bill (in fact, I believe that failed on strictly party lines).