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December 20, 2012 | By | Posted in WatchBlog

WATCHBLOG: Corbett defends free vacation to Rhode Island in 2011

HARRISBURG – They say Rhode Island is beautiful in the summer.

And Gov. Tom Corbett and First Lady Susan Corbett got to see it firsthand this summer – and for free.  According to an updated statement of financial interest filed with the State Ethics Commission, the governor and his wife spent five days in July 2011 on vacation in Rhode Island with the hotel and airfare paid for by John Moran, president of Moran Industries, a Pennsylvania based company that specializes in trucking, rail and warehousing.

The value of the trip was more than $1,400, according to the ethics disclosure.  Moran also paid for the governor to travel via helicopter and private jet from Harrisburg to events in Pittsburgh and Williamsport in September, at an estimated cost of about $900, according to the filing.

Marie Cusick, who writes for State Impact PA, an online project funded by NPR and WITF radio, uncovered the ethics disclosure on Wednesday and explains why it matters.

A few months after the Rhode Island trip, Corbett appointed Moran to a 24-member advisory panel he created to look into privatizing state services.

The Sunbury Daily Item reports that around the same time, Moran’s wife Ann was appointed to an unpaid position at the Pennsylvania Historical and Museum Commission.

Together, the Morans donated more than $75,000 to Corbett’s 2010 run for governor, according to campaign finance records.

This summer, John Moran Jr. was also named co-chair of the Team Pennsylvania Foundation. The organization was established in 1997 as a nonprofit devoted to economic development. It works to build partnerships between business and government.

At a news conference on Thursday, Corbett was asked about the trips he took on Moran’s tab.  He said he followed the law by disclosing the trip and the expenses.

He said he did not believe the trip gave Moran a level of access not available to other residents of the state.

“A lot of people have access to me. They’re friends.  Mr. Moran and his wife, Ann, are friends,” Corbett said. “I’m pretty accessible.”

But Corbett isn’t the first governor Moran has had a cozy relationship with.  According to the Williamsport Sun-Gazette, Moran got some favorable tax breaks from Gov. Ed Rendell’s administration in 2010 as part of an $11 million development of an industrial park in Williamsport.

Contact Boehm at Eric@PAIndepenent.com and follow @PAIndependent on Twitter.

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Eric Boehm is a reporter for PA Independent. He can be reached at Eric@PAIndependent.com or at (717) 350-0963.

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