State Ethics Commission investigating four legislators

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The Pennsylvania Ethics Commission is investigating four House legislators identified as targets of a sting operation aimed at uncovering corruption at the Capitol.

Activist Gene Stilp received a letter Saturday from the commission stating the commission “has initiated full investigations in relation to the complaints that you filed in the above-captioned matter.”

Stilp wrote to the commission in March, days after the Philadelphia Inquirer reported on the existence of the investigation and Attorney General Kathleen Kane’s decision not to prosecute the case.

Kane said the case was poorly handled and was racially motivated, an accusation the investigators involved in the case have denied.

The Inquirer story identified state Reps. Ron Waters, Louise Bishop, Vanessa Lowery Brown and Michelle Brownlee as having accepted cash or gifts from an undercover informant. All are African-American Democrats from Philadelphia. All either have denied wrongdoing or ever accepting the gifts in the first place.

State law does not prohibit lawmakers from accepting gifts, so long as there’s no quid pro quo and so long as the gifts are reported.

“Hopefully, these legislators will get their act together, pay the fines, or go to jail. Who knows? And maybe the citizens won’t return them to office. That would be the best and most fitting punishment,” said Stilp.

The letter Stilp received says he’ll be notified every 90 days on the status of the ethics commission’s investigation until it’s resolved.

Philadelphia District Attorney Seth Williams recently announced he’s convened a grand jury to investigate the case.

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