The trouble with gifts to public officials is that they usually aren't. Those who give to legislators generally expect something in return, whether it's a vote, a contract, or just access. This is particularly true when the gift has significant value, comes in the form of cash, or is given by a lobbyist or anyone else bent on influencing the government.

That's why most states restrict or prohibit gifts to public officials. Pennsylvania law, however, asks us to puzzle over whether a lobbyist who gave $8,000 to a lawmaker was promised anything in exchange - an ultimately absurd and unnecessary question.

So it's heartening that more of the state's politicians are catching on to the need for gift restrictions in the wake of the aborted sting that, according to Inquirer reports, caught four state lawmakers accepting cash and money orders from a lobbyist turned informant. All five candidates challenging Gov. Corbett in this year's elections, for instance, told The Inquirer last week that most gifts to state officials should be prohibited. They're right.

A Corbett campaign spokesman said the governor supports banning cash gifts specifically. Similarly, state senators on both sides of the aisle have said they're considering legislation to prohibit lobbyists and others with a stake in legislation from dispensing cash.

A cash ban would be a correct and, let's hope, easy call. But recent revelations also justify strict restrictions and full disclosure of other gifts and hospitality, particularly from lobbyists and others with government interests. With that added assurance that our representatives actually work for us, Harrisburg could reap a measure of progress from reports that it's still mired in the ethical equivalent of the dark ages.