Pennsylvania House members should not accept cash "gifts" from lobbyists.


We might add that they shouldn't rob people or steal cars, either.

All are wrong, yet – amazingly – only the later two are illegal.

As The Associated Press points out, the law currently allows Pennsylvania legislators and the governor to accept any amount of gifts, dinners, trips, event tickets and the like from anyone.

The hitch, if once could call it that, is that they have to report travel, lodging and hospitality costs from one source of more than $650 annually or gifts worth at least $250 per year from any source.

So, as long as lawmakers have the nerve to own up to it, the sky's the limit.

It's a different story if the gift is given in exchange for action, which is commonly called bribery.

Such official corruption was at the heart of a state attorney general probe of four House members - all Democrats from Philadelphia – accused of accepting payments from a lobbyist wearing a wire for state prosecutors.

The case came to light recently after Attorney General Kathleen Kane dropped the case, which was started by a predecessor, saying it was too badly flawed to pursue.

No charges were filed, but the case prompted widespread outrage – and spurred party leaders in the House to action this week.

The House Bipartisan Management Committee, on which the leaders sit, on Wednesday adopted new ethics rules that ban most types of cash gifts.


Notice they "adopted a rule," not "approved a bill."

Pennsylvania's ethics laws are laughably lax compared to other states; if lawmakers truly want to address the issue they should make official gift-taking a crime, not continue to treat it as a lapse in judgment.

Let's hope this week's action was merely a first step.