Kevin Harley, who has served as Gov. Tom Corbett's spokesman and media adviser since Corbett's earliest days as state attorney general, said Monday he is leaving state government to become managing director of a Harrisburg public relations firm.
Harley plans to become a partner in Quantum Communications, headed by lawyer and Republican activist Charlie Gerow, starting after Labor Day, according to a statement released by the governor's office.
"While I will no longer be serving in state government, I will remain part of the Corbett team,'' Harley said in an email to unnamed colleagues that was obtained by The Associated Press.
Corbett praised Harley, who oversaw the public-relations staffers in state agencies under the governor's jurisdiction, as "one of my closest and trusted advisers for many years.''
His departure comes as polls show Corbett's popularity sagging and after he failed to rally support among fellow Republicans in the Legislature for his three top legislative priorities this summer_ transportation funding, liquor privatization and pension reform.
The Democratic Party likened Harley's departure to ``rearranging deck chairs on the Titanic.''
"The real problem is not Tom Corbett's inner circle, the real problem is Tom Corbett's failed leadership and misplaced priorities,'' Beth Melena, a party spokeswoman, said in an email.
Harley, 49, has spent most of the past 18 years working for Corbett, starting with his appointment to serve out the last 15 months of Attorney General Ernie Preate's term after a scandal forced him to resign in 1995.
Harley served as spokesman for Mike Fisher, now a federal appellate judge, during his two terms as attorney general, but he was back with Corbett during his successful 2004 campaign as attorney general.
Harley has remained a close adviser to Corbett, including during his successful 2010 gubernatorial bid. Harley did not respond to a message seeking comment.