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Political Perk: Free PSU Tickets to Lawmakers

STATE COLLEGE — Go to a Penn State football game and you probably have to pay for your tickets. But some of your state lawmakers get free seats in a luxur...
psu tix

STATE COLLEGE -- Go to a Penn State football game and you probably have to pay for your tickets.

But some of your state lawmakers get free seats in a luxury box and Newswatch 16 has learned that one lawmaker used those free tickets to take his family to the game, then billed taxpayers for the drive to and from Beaver Stadium.

State lawmakers who take advantage of the free Penn State football tickets say they are doing business and learning about how the university operates.

But only one lawmaker from our area took advantage of the free tickets and then billed taxpayers for the cost of getting to the game.

At Penn State Capital Day in Harrisburg, students rally in the Capitol Rotunda in support of more state funding for the university.

During football season, the university provides state lawmakers with up to five free luxury box tickets for a single game.

One season ticket holder tells Newswatch 16 these seats are worth about $150 a piece.

"It is legalized pay to play politics, which some of the worst corruption is legal, which is the biggest problem we have," said State Rep. Aaron Kaufer, (R) Luzerne County.

We surveyed lawmakers from northeastern and central Pennsylvania. Of the 22 who responded, 13 did not take the free Penn State tickets during the past two seasons.

Nine did, including State Senator John Gordner of Columbia County.

He wrote the tickets were offered after "a presentation on science and technology initiatives."

State Representative David Parker of Monroe County also accepted the tickets and said he brought, "my parents who are both Penn State alumni."

"It is a great opportunity to meet all individuals from Penn State," said Rep. Frank Farina, (D) Lackawanna County.

Farina called his outing to Beaver Stadium in September a business trip. The lawmaker from Lackawanna County posted a picture on Facebook with the Penn State University president and wrote it was a chance to talk about higher education.

"The state has a tremendous amount of influence on these universities and state universities, so I wouldn't consider it a perk," Farina said.

But Farina was the only lawmaker surveyed from our area who we know charged taxpayers for the trip to and from Penn State.

Newswatch 16 obtained Farina's expense report billing the state for 343 miles. He was reimbursed $197 for the trip that included his wife and three children.

"When you bring three kids to a game like that, you're not going to leave the stadium without buying souvenirs," said Farina. "I just know I am not afforded the luxury of not expensing that mileage."

"We work hard for our money, and we want it to go for something that's worthwhile, not for people to go watch games," said Dorothy Corcoran  of Plains.

"Morally, ethically, and professionally, it's all wrong," said Mike Khouri of Wilkes-Barre.

State Representative Aaron Kaufer of Luzerne County has co-sponsored a bill that would keep lawmakers from getting free football tickets by banning gifts of what's termed "significant value."

"We really have to get serious about changing the institution, to change the results we're getting out of government right now," said Kaufer.

Kaufer's bill is now in committee. It pairs with Governor Wolf's ban on gifts for state employees, other than legislators and staffers.

For the past three days, we've tried to get a comment from Penn State on its practice of offering football box seats to legislators. University officials did not return our calls.

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