Consol paid for Super Bowl trip for Sen. Solobay

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HARRISBURG -- Senate Pro Tem Joe Scarnati isn't the only lawmaker to let Consol Energy Inc. pay his way to the Super Bowl.

State Sen. Tim Solobay, D-Canonsburg, confirmed today that Consol provided him a hotel room and travel in a company plane to the Super Bowl in Arlington, Texas, where the Steelers lost to the Green Bay Packers on Feb. 6.

After two days of dodging phone calls and visits from Capitol reporters, Mr. Solobay today issued a written statement through his secretary.

The secretary also relayed a message from Mr. Solobay, saying that "after the costs are calculated by Consol, he will be addressing it."

Mr. Solobay would not explain whether that means he will repay Consol.

In his written statement, Mr. Solobay said he paid for his own ticket to the game and that he followed "the letter of the law regarding contact with lobbyists."

State ethics laws require lawmakers to report lobbyists' gifts worth more than $650.

Government watchdogs say costly gifts, such as Super Bowl trips allow lobbyists to curry favor with decision makers.

"Lobbyists don't do these things without expecting something in return. Anyone who says otherwise is trying to fool people," said Tim Potts, co-founder of Democracy Rising PA. "These lawmakers should ask their constituents if they want them beholden to a special interest."

Mr. Solobay disagrees.

"The notion that this trip could influence my vote in the Senate is absurd," he said in his written statement. "I talked. I listened. In the end, I will always do what is best for my constituents."

Mr. Solobay has publicly opposed taxing natural gas drilling and has said he wants to reduce bureaucratic red tape that has hindered the industry's development.

Department of State records show that Consol executives and political action committees controlled by the company contributed at least $4,300 to Mr. Solobay's political campaigns since 2005.

The Philadelphia Inquirer reported Sunday that Consol paid for Mr. Scarnati's game ticket, plane ride and hotel bill. A day later, Mr. Scarnati R- Jefferson, said he would reimburse the company.

It is not known how many other lawmakers Consol transported to Texas for the 2011 Super Bowl.


Tracie Mauriello: 717-787-2141 or tmauriello@post-gazette.com. Angela Couloumbis: 717-787-5934 or acouloumbis@phillynews.com.


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