HARRISBURG -- The day before Department of Environmental Protection Secretary Michael Krancer was unanimously confirmed by the state Senate, his father donated $25,000 to the State Republican Committee.
State Democratic Party operatives on Wednesday condemned that action after they discovered the donation on a campaign finance report. But the elder Mr. Krancer contends that the timing is nothing more than coincidence.
Neither the size of that check nor its recipient are unusual for Ronald Krancer, a major GOP donor in southeastern Pennsylvania. He contributed $150,000 to Gov. Tom Corbett's gubernatorial campaign, as well as donating tens of thousands to GOP power-broker Bob Asher's political action committee and at least $125,000 to the state Republican Party since 2008.
While Ronald Krancer's checks mostly go to GOP candidates, he also made high-figure contributions to former Gov. Ed Rendell's gubernatorial campaigns.
But the date of his April 25 donation to the state GOP was what raised the ire of Democrats, who questioned why it came as lawmakers in Harrisburg were considering Mr. Corbett's appointee to head the DEP.
Michael Krancer, who previously served on the state Environmental Hearing Board and ran for Supreme Court in 2007, joined the administration as acting secretary in January.
He spent much of his first few months changing how environmental violations and drilling wastewater would be managed and drawing intense scrutiny during that process.
Democrats have been particularly skeptical of those changes and of the new administration's opposition to enacting a severance tax on natural gas extraction.
Mark Nicastre, a spokesman for the state Democratic Party, said that view has been fueled in part by what they see as connections between donors and appointees.
"Under Tom Corbett, there has been a long pattern of donors and their families receiving high-ranking jobs," Mr. Nicastre said. "It's part of a disturbing trend that undermines confidence in the independence and legitimacy of Tom Corbett's administration."
Reached for comment on Wednesday, the elder Mr. Krancer said there was "absolutely no connection whatsoever" between the timing of his donation and his son's confirmation: "I'm just not involved in that."
A spokeswoman for the State Republican Committee echoed that sentiment, saying "one thing has nothing to do with the other."
"Ron Krancer has and continues to be an enthusiastic supporter of the Republican Party of Pennsylvania," GOP party spokeswoman Valerie Caras said. Michael Krancer declined to comment.
Laura Olson: firstname.lastname@example.org or 717-787-4254.