With testimony to begin February 1 in the latest BonusGate trial, Pennsylvania State Senate leaders have introduced a resolution setting clear guidelines against legislative employees doing campaign work on state time.
The fourteen page resolution clarifies the legal ban against public employees campaigning while on the clock, and sets up a system to report any activity violating those rules. It also bars Senate-funded newsletters from being sent out within 60 days of an election, and maintains Senate employees can’t be forced to donate to or work on political campaigns, or be ordered to carry out non-work-related tasks.
Senate Republican spokesman Erik Arneson says the ethics guidelines do allow for what they label “unavoidable” campaign work on state time.
That includes lawmakers or staffers answering reporters’ questions about campaigns, or legislative staffers talking to campaign employees about candidates’ schedules.
"So there has to be some coordination there. You have to make some allowance for campaign people to be able to communicate with legislative schedulers so the senator’s not expected to be in two different places on Tuesday, March 14th."
Arneson says the resolution does allow Senate employees to perform campaign activities, if they reduce their hours and pay, or carry out the work on their own free time.
"A lot of what we do is political in the legislature, and it’s unavoidable. I mean we’re a political body. They’re politicians, and politicians that we work for. But campaign related is really the line we’re trying to make as clear as possible."
The Senate will hold a hearing on the guidelines in February.