By Joseph Deinlein
The Daily Item
The wife of a Watsontown businessman with ties to Pennsylvania’s burgeoning natural gas industry was appointed to the Pennsylvania Historical and Museum Commission last week by Gov. Tom Corbett.
But that’s after Ann and John D. Moran Jr. donated $79,750 to Corbett’s campaign for governor between 2009 and 2010.
The donations made by her and her husband weren’t a consideration in the appointment, governor spokesman Gary Miller said.
“It played no role in her selection, and the governor strongly rejects any insinuation that it did,” Miller said. “And by way of reminder, this is an unpaid-volunteer position, and her confirmation vote by the Senate was unanimous (and bipartisan).”
Ann Moran, who lives in Lewisburg, was recommended for the unpaid position by the governor’s wife, Susan, with whom Moran is friends, Miller said. The first lady also sits on the commission.
“Mrs. Moran and Mrs. Corbett share a strong interest in Gettysburg and the Civil War and, for the last several years, have been exchanging books on the topic,” Miller said.
In a written statement, Moran said she was “honored and humbled” to be asked to serve on the commission.
“I share the commitment of the governor and first lady to preserve our proud heritage,” she said. “I look forward to working with the other commissioners to advance the mission of this wonderful agency.”
Moran, a Bloomsburg University graduate with a degree in business administration, is heavily involved in philanthropy and volunteering, adding to her credentials for the commission, Miller said.
Aside from working at her children’s school and volunteering with the Junior League of Williamsport and with fundraising for the Ronald McDonald House, she chairs the Evangelical Community Hospital Gala Committee and serves on the Spiritual Care Advisory Committee at Geisinger Medical Center in Danville, Miller said.
Family spokesman Jason Fitzgerald, who works for John Moran’s JDM Consulting, said the Morans’ donations to political and charitable causes are well known. Aside from being friends with the Corbetts, the Morans believe Tom Corbett did an excellent job as attorney general and is doing the same as governor.
“There is no correlation between the contributions and the service,” Fitzgerald said. “Frankly, John Moran has never asked the governor for anything.”
Barry Kauffman, executive director of government watchdog group Common Cause Pennsylvania, said the appointment appears to be more of the same old way of doing politics.
“Unfortunately, that’s the way the government runs in Pennsylvania,” he said. “It’s a big pay-to-play system. The voters need to stand up and stop it.”
While appointments to committees are one area of concern, a bigger area is government contracts, he said. New Jersey has led the nation with strong laws that prevent giving such contracts to businesses that have contributed to a politician who oversees the agency giving the contract.
Similar laws also exist for political appointments, Kauffman said.
Even with Corbett and the Morans denying any tit-for-tat, the appearance still is there.
“The Historical and Museum Commission is one of those agencies where political cronies can get parked,” Kauffman said. “It looks good on a resume. (With recent budget cuts), we need people who can make the commission work in a way that every taxpayer dollar gets the biggest bang for the buck.”
On that point, Fitzgerald agrees.
“Mrs. Moran is known for her fundraising for Evan (hospital) and other nonprofits,” he said. “It’s not surprising the governor would turn to somebody with such depth and breadth of experience.”