Despite ethics concerns, Shapiro will keep accepting tickets from a group that gets state money

This story originally appeared on Spotlight PA.

Gov. Josh Shapiro plans to continue accepting perks like tickets to sporting events from a nonprofit that receives state money despite concerns he may be violating his own gift ban.

The nonprofit in question is Team Pennsylvania, a public-private partnership that says it works to improve the commonwealth’s “competitiveness and economic prosperity.” This year it paid for tickets and lodgings for Shapiro, a Democrat, to attend the Super Bowl in Arizona, and funded his tickets to a Philadelphia Phillies playoff game and a Penn State football game.

In the latter instances, the administration defended the trips as a chance to “attend the game with business leaders to discuss economic development and job creation” and to celebrate “the work [of] one of the Commonwealth’s most important universities,” respectively.

The administration did not proactively disclose who paid for the tickets; Spotlight PA requested that information from a spokesperson.

One expert told Spotlight PA earlier this year that taking tickets from Team PA could conflict with Shapiro’s gift ban, which bars executive branch employees from accepting goods or services, like tickets, from any “person or entity” that “has financial relations with the Commonwealth.”

Team PA receives money from the commonwealth. Just this year, the nonprofit was awarded $1.8 million in taxpayer money from three new contracts, including $1.2 million to study hydrogen technology. The rest is to develop an economic development plan for the state.

The gift policy Shapiro signed doesn’t say who is supposed to monitor staffers and officials for potential violations, nor does the governor’s code of conduct, which predates his administration. The code of conduct says only that people covered who don’t comply “shall be subjected to disciplinary action including, but not limited to, reprimands, suspensions, and termination.”

>>READ MORE: Gov. Josh Shapiro rebuilt a bridge, weathered a messy budget, and walked fine partisan lines in 2023

Shapiro’s decision to tap Team PA for tickets isn’t unique. The group has existed since 1997, and has paid for expensive trips and outings for multiple Pennsylvania governors. The Shapiro administration has made clear that it doesn’t oppose that relationship.

“It’s a really important collaboration,” administration spokesperson Manuel Bonder said, noting Team PA’s long history. “[It’s] certainly one that we expect will continue so that the governor can partake in moments and opportunities to promote Pennsylvania at no cost to taxpayers.”

  • December 26, 2023
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