HARRISBURG - Just months into taking office, Gov. Corbett was traveling gratis, courtesy of a major campaign donor. He flew in the donor's private plane. He rode in his helicopter. He spent a long weekend on his yacht in Newport.
On Thursday, Corbett defended the three trips in 2011, costing a total of more than $2,300, that were paid for by warehouse and trucking firm owner John D. Moran Jr.
"I did not violate policy," Corbett said at an unusually contentious news conference in the Capitol. "We followed the law."
In an amended ethics filing posted on a state website last month, Corbett disclosed that Moran - who, with his wife, Ann, has given Corbett $115,000 in campaign donations since 2009 - footed the bill for multiple trips within Pennsylvania and to Rhode Island.
The ethics filing, first reported by NPR's StateImpact Pennsylvania project, shows a five-day Moran-sponsored trip to Rhode Island that Corbett took with his wife, Susan, that was valued at $1,423.
Corbett elaborated on Thursday, telling reporters that the trip, from July 1 through July 5, 2011, was to Newport and was on Moran's private boat.
The filing also disclosed trips on Moran's private plane and helicopter worth $902 to events in Williamsport and Pittsburgh on Sept. 30, 2011.
A month later, Moran paid for Lt. Gov. Jim Cawley to spend a weekend in Newport.
Financial-disclosure forms filed by Cawley indicate that a month later, Moran spent $740 to cover two nights' lodging and a charter fishing trip.
Corbett said he filed an addendum to his ethics report last month to reflect the Newport trip after the a clerical error was discovered.
Moran did not return a phone call to his Watsontown headquarters seeking comment.
Moran is closely connected with several key business initiatives of the governor. He is cochair of his Team Pennsylvania group, which is focused on bringing business into the state, and is a member of the governor's privatization commission.
Moran also accompanied Corbett on a six-day trade mission this year to France and Germany.
Ann Moran was named by Corbett to serve on the Pennsylvania Historical and Museum Commission.
Corbett said he and his wife and the Morans have been close friends for four or five years. He denied that this gave Moran any special access for the purposes of business dealings.
"Mr. Moran and his wife are friends," he said. "I have a lot of friends at home. I have friends in Philadelphia."
In 2006, Moran Industries received a $299,500 grant through the Department of Community and Economic Development to help develop its site in Williamsport, according to DCED officials. The same year, the company received low-interest loans from the state worth $2.19 million.
In addition, since at least 2004, the company has benefited from its location in a Keystone Opportunity Zone, which provides for tax abatements.
Corbett is not the only public official to accept gifts. Legislators, for instance, have routinely over the years disclosed gifts ranging from tickets to sporting events to trips overseas to exotic locales.