Pa. senators want to ban lawmakers taking cash

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HARRISBURG -- After news the attorney general had shut down an investigation in which officeholders were offered money, Pennsylvania senators called Monday for bans on accepting cash.

Sens. Lisa Baker, R-Luzerne, and Lloyd Smucker, R-Lancaster, announced plans for one bill to ban legislators from accepting cash gifts, except those from family members, while Sen. Daylin Leach, D-Montgomery, announced plans for another.

The Philadelphia Inquirer reported March 16 that Attorney General Kathleen Kane had shut down a yearslong undercover sting without prosecution despite tape showing four Democratic state representatives accepting money.

Ms. Kane said approximately eight people accepted more than $20,000. But she said the case was badly managed, with a witness lacking credibility and evidence of racial targeting, and that a local prosecutor and a federal law enforcement agency had agreed it could not be prosecuted.

"I obviously do not know the truth of any of those allegations, however in reading the press accounts of the investigation and the allegations that emerged, I was troubled to learn that there was no legal prohibition against accepting such gifts if they had been offered," Mr. Leach said in a statement announcing his proposal.

State law requires legislators to report gifts of more than $250.

Senate Majority Leader Dominic Pileggi supports the proposal by Ms. Baker and Mr. Smucker and would like the Senate to consider the bill soon after its introduction, said Erik Arneson, Mr. Pileggi's spokesman.

Last week, the good-government group Common Cause called for banning all gifts to public officials from lobbyists and others doing business with the state. On Monday, state Treasurer Rob McCord, who is seeking the Democratic nomination for governor, said he agreed.


Karen Langley: klangley@post-gazette.com or 1-717-787-2141 or on Twitter @karen_langley.

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