HARRISBURG, Pa. (WHTM) — Allegations of campaign finance violations have been lodged against current Pennsylvania Auditor General, Eugene DePasquale (D).
His opponent in the 10th Congressional District race, Tom Brier (D), filed the federal complaint last week.
Brier said Monday his complaint is about ethics, not politics.
“Federal Election Commission guidelines are very clear, you can’t use state money that you used for your state campaign for a federal race,” Brier said.
Federal law does explicitly prohibit candidates from transferring or using funds from state-level campaigns for federal races.
In the eight-page complaint, Brier accuses DePasquale of violating federal campaign finance law by misusing $113,050 from his state committee funds to get his congressional race off the ground before it was announced.
The FEC complaint is built largely on DePasquale’s state campaign finance report from October 2019, which Brier said his team received in January and was able to further review during the ongoing COVID-19 pandemic.
“There were sizable disbursements for video production, for websites, for retainer fees,” Brier said. “[It was] clearly an indication that he was paying somebody to do political work. When we looked at the timeline, it coincided exactly with the spending and advertisements he had on Facebook, and the news reports that he was running for Congress.”
Brier said the October report revealed that from March to May 2019, DePasquale spent thousands on political and media consulting; a big concern, he said, was the money paid to the Jackson Media Group that produced DePasquale’s congressional announcement video.
Brier said he wants to know why money was paid to produce a video for a federal race, when DePasquale’s intentions to seek a federal seat had not yet been publicly disclosed.
“The video production kind of is the signal that this was clearly for a federal race,” Brier said. “If you’re gonna say it wasn’t for Congress, then you have to specify what they were for.”
He suggests DePasquale was using his state funds to give his at-the-time-unannounced congressional run a head start.
“He’s the Auditor General, he’s our state’s lead fiscal watchdog, his only job is to make sure we have ethical spending,” Brier said.
DePasquale’s campaign manager Rachele Fortier said Brier’s comments and complaint create a false narrative.
“Through the winter and spring of 2019, Eugene had not made any decision on running for Congress and was considering running for other offices, including at the state level,” Fortier said. “Since his decision and announcement to run for Congress, the federal committee has paid the state committee thousands of dollars to legally purchase materials that are relevant to the congressional campaign, to eliminate any concern about utilizing state campaign assets.
“This is clearly a baseless attack from a frustrated politician who is struggling to gain traction in this primary, the details of which the Brier campaign sent to the press without even bothering to send us directly,” Fortier continued. “It’s incredibly disappointing that Tom Brier would stoop to this politically-motivated attack during this pandemic, while Eugene is focused on helping our community through this crisis.”
She calls the expenditures completely normal and said Brier is lodging the complaint because he simply “has no path forward in this primary,” clarifying that any money that was spent was not taxpayer dollars.
“I’m perfectly willing to concede if [DePasquale] files a credible rationale for us being wrong,” Brier said. “I’m not doing this as a matter of personal ambition, I’m doing it to help people and restore trust to public service.”
The Brier Campaign, in a press release, stated it wants the FEC to review the relevant materials, conduct a thorough investigation, impose penalties mandating repayment of misappropriated funds totaling at least $113,050, and secure an agreement from DePasquale and his committees not to repeat any of these violations of law.
It is unlikely that Brier’s complaint, if challenged, will be settled before the two square off for the June 2 primary. Whomever of the two democrats wins will take on Congressman Scott Perry (R) in the fall.
The 10th Congressional District includes all of Dauphin County, an eastern section of Cumberland County and a northern section of York County.