By Jon Delano

PITTSBURGH (KDKA) — Gov. Tom Corbett won’t talk about the current investigation, but says whatever happened at the Turnpike Commission under previous governors, his rule about doing business with any state agency is simple.

“These contracts should be awarded fairly and on the basis of merit — and should have nothing to do with any pay-to-play,” Corbett told KDKA political editor Jon Delano.

Pay-to-play is shorthand for awarding lucrative state contracts to those who make campaign contributions, entertain, or give gifts to state officials.

“Evidence of secret gifts of cash, gifts and entertainment, and the payment of substantial political contributions to public officials and political organizations by private Turnpike vendors and their consultants demonstrates that the Turnpike operates under a pay-to-play system that is illegal and corrupt,” Attorney General Kathleen Kane said on Wednesday, as eight former officials were charged.

Corbett says pay-to-play changed when he took office in 2011.

“I brought in a CEO with specific instructions that that kind of practice end,” he said. “We have brought much greater visibility to the contracting practice.”

The grand jury found the commission had a 60/40 rule, directing 60 percent of the contracts to the party in power and 40 percent to the minority party.

Delano: “The 60/40 rule does not apply in your administration?”

Corbett: “No, it does not apply whatsoever.”

The governor was pressed on the role of campaign contributions in securing government contracts.

Delano: “So the signal is loud and clear from Gov. Corbett that you do not need to make campaign contributions to anyone in state government?”

Corbett: “That’s absolutely right. Do people make campaign contributions? Sure they do, but what we’ve been doing is saying we’re open for business for everybody. We want to grow businesses in Pennsylvania.”

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