Elections have consequences, so it's hardly shocking that Republican Gov.-elect Tom Corbett is loading up his transition team with business leaders.
But Corbett's reliance on advisers who contributed bundles of cash to his campaign is another deflating example of money buying access in Harrisburg. It's a strong argument for campaign-finance limits in Pennsylvania.
Since the election on Nov. 2, Corbett has been assembling people to help him devise policies on energy, transportation, welfare reform, and education. Collectively, these individuals spent $1.9 million to get Corbett elected.
Their companies, coworkers and other associates donated another $2.7 million to Corbett's campaign. These donations account for nearly one-fifth of the $24.5 million that Corbett spent to win the governorship.
The transition-team member who donated the most was Vahan Gureghian, a Gladwyne lawyer and billboard company owner who operates the state's largest charter school. He gave $334,286 over three years, and is now advising Corbett on education and transportation policy.
And then there's Christine Toretti, another frequent GOP donor who is CEO of S.W. Jack Drilling Co. Her firm is heavily involved with drilling for natural gas in the state's Marcellus Shale region. Corbett opposes a sensible effort to impose a wellhead tax, as have all other gas-producing states.
Corbett named Toretti cochair of his transition team. She donated more than $127,000 to his campaign, including air transportation, lodging costs, and a single check last August for $75,000.
A spokesman for Corbett said there's no correlation between giving large amounts of cash to the campaign and being chosen to serve on the transition team. And Team Corbett may believe that.
But the problem of an uneven playing field was no less acute during Gov. Rendell's two elections; he was a prodigious fund-raiser whose campaign accepted six-figure checks from wealthy donors who wanted access.
In federal elections, individuals who want to donate to a candidate running for president or for Congress are limited to $2,400. But in Pennsylvania, one of a handful of states without campaign limits, donors can give as much as they want to candidates running for statewide office.
This absence of conscience benefits incumbent legislators of both parties, who perennially resist calls for sensible donor limits. The result is a state that gives the appearance of allowing the highest bidders to call the shots in Harrisburg.
The message that Harrisburg sends is clear: Large campaign checks buy a seat at the table. And a seat at the table is the best way to get your fill.