When the Pittsburgh Steelers lost the Super Bowl, critics say the General Assembly lost credibility because a few lawmakers accepted a trip to the big game from natural gas drillers, who have thus far avoided being taxed by the legislature.
It might look bad, but it's not illegal. In Pennsylvania, anybody can give anything to elected officials as long as that official reports it on an annual ethics form.
Statements of financial interest forms filed with the Ethics Commission are supposed to keep public officials honest, but executive director John Contino said cuts have reduced his budget to $1.7 million a year.
"There are 250,000 statements of financial interest filed statewide in a year," said Contino. "It's virtually impossible to monitor and administer the accuracy of every filing."
A vague law doesn't help either. Technically, it's illegal to give a gift to a public official if you're trying to influence them.
"There are gray areas and its very difficult to prove that a particular gift was given with a specific intent to influence, that's very difficult to prove," Contino said.
State Rep. Babette Josephs, D-Philadelphia, has introduced a bill that would ban gifts of more than $650. Rep. Eugene DePasquale, D-York, wants a ban on all gifts, but some lawmakers say a total ban could go too far.
"When people come to the door, you have to say 'no, don't give me anything, not a piece of paper, I don't want a pen,'" said Rep. Rob Kauffman, R-Franklin/Cumberland.
Supporters of the current system insist that as long as officials report what they accepted, that's enough. It's then up to the voters to decide.