Lawyers for Gov. Wolf, who campaigned for competitive bidding and lower fees in state legal contracts, told one of the state's biggest employers to hire three Philadelphia law firms - not just the one it wanted - as a condition for routine state and federal tax breaks last month.

Back in March, the University of Pennsylvania Health System wanted to borrow up to $400 million for building projects in Philadelphia, Chester County Hospital, and Radnor outpatient offices. Penn Health went to the Pennsylvania Higher Educational Facilities Authority, one of several state-backed agencies that help issue income-tax-exempt bonds. Penn Health asked to hire well-connected Ballard Spahr LLP as its bond lawyer. The authority's board, with representatives from state agencies, legislators, and the elected auditor general and treasurer, approved Penn's plan unanimously March 10.

But when the Penn Health bond prospectus was made available to would-be investors by Merrill Lynch, JP Morgan, and Penn Health's other underwriters April 16, Ballard was listed with three other firms.

The move caught authority board members by surprise. "We don't know how this happened. Why are there three more law firms? We need answers," Auditor General Eugene DePasquale told me.

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