17 of 24 on state privatization panel contributed to Corbett's campaign
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HARRISBURG -- Gov. Tom Corbett's new privatization council is already taking some criticism for its makeup, with Democrats saying it contains too many campaign donors who could benefit from their own recommendations.
The Corbett administration defends the appointees, saying their business interests and donation records have nothing to do with their task of reviewing which government functions could performed more efficiently.
An analysis of state campaign finance records shows that 17 of the 24 appointed members contributed to Mr. Corbett's campaign coffers during the last election cycle.
Mostly through smaller checks of $500 or $1,000 a pop, those business leaders and politicos appear to have directly donated at least $234,750.
That's a small percentage of the $25 million Mr. Corbett's campaign raised and less than the $557,000 that 13 members of the governor's Marcellus Shale Advisory Commission contributed.
Some Democrats were quick to attack that list of donors, with Pennsylvania Democratic Party spokesman Mark Nicastre describing the new panel as "another vehicle to reward [Mr. Corbett's] donors and corporate special interests."
Corbett spokesman Kevin Harley responded that no panel members have business interests that would benefit from recommendations they will propose.
The largest contribution -- about $103,500 -- came from Philadelphia GOP fundraiser Bob Asher, who also co-chaired the governor's inaugural committee. Lewisburg businessman John D. Moran Jr., who heads a warehousing and logistics company, is listed as contributing $45,750 and another $38,000 in donated transportation services.
The seven names that couldn't be found on the finance records that Mr. Corbett's campaign filed with the state are: Commonwealth Foundation president Matt Brouillette, Peter Calcara of the state's Institute of Certified Public Accountants, University of Pittsburgh executive vice chancellor Jerome Cochran, Gerald Feldman of Bradford Woods, Varsovia Fernandez of the Greater Philadelphia Hispanic Chamber of Commerce, school-choice advocate Joe Watkins and Dennis Yablonsky of the Allegheny Conference on Community Development.
While Mr. Watkins didn't donate to last year's campaign, he chairs Students First, a pro-voucher group whose political action committee sent Mr. Corbett's war chest $27,000. Mr. Asher's PAC, the PA Future Fund, also sent significant dollars to Mr. Corbett's gubernatorial efforts.
Franklin & Marshall College political scientist G. Terry Madonna said those campaign checks are less of a concern than ensuring that panel members avoid the appearance of a conflict in their policy suggestions.
"You can expect that they'll promote the private sector, but they'll need to be careful not to promote their own private interests," Mr. Madonna said.
First Published October 1, 2011 12:00 am