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Sens. Lisa Baker, Lloyd Smucker seek ban on cash gifts to lawmakers

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Sen. Lisa Baker, R-Dallas, and Sen. Lloyd Smucker, R-Lancaster, are seeking sponsorship for legislation that would impose an absolute ban on legislators accepting cash gifts from lobbyists, principals, consultants and others who seek to influence the legislative process.

“Banning cash gifts to legislators is long overdue,” Smucker said in a news release. “As recent events have unfortunately demonstrated, Pennsylvania continues to be behind the curve nationally in regard to strong ethics rules and laws. We must, and we can, do better.”

In the proposed legislation, cash gifts would include U.S. and foreign currency, money orders, checks, gift cards and certificates, and prepaid debit and credit cards.

The only exception would be cash gifts from a parent, spouse, child or other close relative when it is made clear the motivation for the gift is a personal or family relationship.

Because the legislative process is slow, Baker and Smucker also are asking for a new Senate rule to impose the same ban on cash gifts to legislators and Senate staff.

On March 16, The Philadelphia Inquirer reported that a sting operation, started in 2010 by then-state Attorney General Tom Corbett, a Republican, caught several officeholders, including four state Democratic lawmakers, receiving cash and other gifts totaling more than $20,000. Current Attorney General Kathleen Kane, a Democrat, shut down the operation in 2013, stating it was flawed from the start and unfairly targeted black lawmakers, the paper reported.

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