Tim Holden is in a tough primary battle, and today he threw the first punch. It’s a doozy. The Congressman’s latest ad blasts opponent Matt Cartwright for his campaign contributions to Mark Ciavarella and Michael Conahan, the infamous “Kids for Cash” judges.
“Lawyer Matt Cartwright and his firm contributed thousands of dollars to the campaigns of Luzerne County judges who were convicted in the ‘Kids for Cash’ scandal. Judges who took millions in bribes to send juvenile offenders to private jails,” says a stern narrator.
The spot transitions into a positive Holden message.
The ad is hard-hitting, and is likely to strike a nerve among NEPA voters on whom the issue left a lasting impression.
Cartwright personally contributed $1,375 to Ciavarella’s retention committee in 2005. The PAC affiliated with his law firm contributed $1,125 to Ciavarella.
But Catwright is hitting back, calling the ad an act of desperation. He notes that he and his law firm have has supported “dozens of Democrats in the past 25 years.”
“Tim Holden spent the past 20 years in Washington, and this is what he decided to talk about,” said Cartwright. “Of course, it is not surprising that Holden does not want to discuss the facts that he voted to create the Halliburton Loophole and against Health Care Reform.
He noted that he spearheaded the Juvenile Defense Lawyer Project in Luzerne County in the wake of the scandal.
Reported the Times-Leader in 2010:
Cartwright was recognized for his leadership of the Juvenile Pro Bono Defense Program, which was created to guarantee pro bono counsel for juveniles that had been adjudicated by former President Judge Mark Ciavarella in the event their cases were retired.
“If anything, Matt Cartwright was a hero in cleaning up the criminal mess that these judges created,” his campaign asserted in a press release.
Though the judges’ criminal activity occurred starting in 2000, investigations did not begin until 2007 – after Cartwright and his firm’s PAC had contributed.
Holden, the longest-serving member of Congress from Pennsylvania, faces unfamiliar territory in the 2012 election. After redistricting, he retained only 20 percent of his Democratic constitutents. Cartwright, meanwhile, is well-known in northeast Pa and boasts a war chest of $600,000 – close to Holden’s bankroll of about $750,000.
For proof that Holden is taking the race seriously, look no further than the fact that he is going negative first – and harshly – in order to define Cartwright.
Update: Holden’s camp rebutted the statement that they were firing the first shot, noting that Cartwright has sent several negative mailers and has consistently attacked Holden on the trail.
Holden CM Eric Nagy dismissed Cartwright’s response to the ad, and said that Cartwright has yet to ask for a refund.
“If I knew that me and my firm had given thousands of dollars to these crooked judges, I would try to save face, too.”