Just what we need...
At least two state senators think that creation of yet another state agency will resolve the Legislature's long-running corruption problem.
Sens. John Yudichak, a Democrat from Luzerne County, and Ted Erickson, a Republican from Delaware County, want to create a public integrity commission to uncover public and state corruption in state and local government.
In addition to an ethics commission, Pennsylvania also already has an auditor general, an attorney general, 67 district attorneys and, fortunately, three federal court districts with active federal prosecutors. The investigative end of things appears to be covered.
But Mr. Yudichak and Mr. Erickson are optimists. Part of their memo seeking their colleagues' support for a new agency states: "It is the hope that this new, empowered agency would take Pennsylvania out from under the dark cloud of suspicion hovering over many of our governmental institutions and into the light of good, ethical government practices. Self-policing has not worked. It is time to form an independent state agency to root out and prevent public corruption."
There already is an independent state agency capable of rooting out and preventing public corruption - the state Legislature. But the problem is that it specifically allows corruption by its members.
For example, the most shocking thing about the recent controversy over a failed sting operation against four state legislators in Philadelphia is not that they allegedly accepted money and gifts from an informant. It's that their alleged crime was not accepting the money, but failing to report it. State law and legislative rules actually allow Pennsylvania lawmakers to accept gifts from anyone who offers them, as long as the legislators report any cash over $250 or lodging and travel over $650.
Part of the proposed commission's mission would be educating public officials about corruption. Somehow, apparently, they don't know it when they see it.
Instead of creating yet another agency at public expense, the senators should simply propose to make the existing ethics commission independent of the Legislature. That means budgetary independence and that lawmakers could not appoint members.