Updated: June 5, 2020 | 12:58 pm
Lawmakers allowed to take gifts in Pa.; government watchdog calls it ‘legalized corruption’
Pennsylvania House Speaker Mike Turzai, an outspoken advocate for the state’s fossil fuel industry, accepted an $11,000 plane ride last year from a Pittsburgh-area businessman involved in two fracking-related companies.
In an ethics disclosure, Turzai said he gave a scheduled speech to the Shale Insight Conference in Pittsburgh at 9 a.m. on Oct. 23, but had to make it back to Harrisburg, a four-hour drive, to gavel in the state House at 11 a.m.
There were no commercial flights in that time frame, the disclosure said. “Thus so, he had to secure a private flight.”
The disclosure said the price for the flight, $10,988.44, was higher than normal because President Donald Trump traveled to Pittsburgh that day to speak at the same shale industry conference. The price was “a result of the security and other logistical concerns related to the arrival of the President that day.”
Stephen Frobouck, who paid for the flight, said he made the offer while talking to Turzai’s staff about having the Speaker visit a liquid fuels facility Frobouck is planning to build in Westmoreland County.
Frobouck co-founded Reserved Environmental Services, which operates a fracking wastewater treatment plant at the site in New Stanton, Pa., and is president and CEO of another gas-related venture, American GTL, which hopes to create liquid fuel from Marcellus shale gas at the site.
“He had to get back to Harrisburg. I said we’ll get you in there, we can get you a flight,” Frobouck said. “It was a last-minute thing on the flight.”
Turzai visited the New Stanton site, about 50 miles from his district, on Dec. 11. His spokesman Stephen Miskin said it was “a typical energy-related industry visit for the Speaker.”
Asked if the visit was made in exchange for the flight six weeks earlier, Miskin said, “No. It was never discussed.”
In an email, Miskin said Turzai, who is retiring at the end of the year, “went beyond the legal requirements by providing complete information” about the flight in his disclosure statement. “The flight’s purpose was to allow him to provide opening remarks for a…
Read More: House Speaker Turzai accepted $11K flight from businessman with fracking-related