In PA-18, a Battle Over Technicalities
In political reporting, it’s common to receive an email offering some tidbit off the record or not for attribution.
So far this cycle, there isn’t a race in the state where the practice is more frequent than in the 18th congressional campaign. There, Washington County Commissioner Larry Maggi is taking on five-term incumbent Rep. Tim Murphy (R-Allegheny). And as operatives are fond of anonymously pointing out, both have broken the rules.
Here are the two latest charges.
First, a tipster flagged Murphy’s campaign website, which featured a video of him speaking on the House floor – a violation of House Ethics rules. The manual states:
Coverage of House Floor and Committee Proceedings. Broadcast coverage and recordings of House floor proceedings may not be used for any political purpose under House Rule 5, clause 2(c)(1). In addition, under House Rule 11, clause 4(b), radio and television tapes and film of any coverage of House committee proceedings may not be used, or made available for use, as partisan political campaign material to promote or oppose the candidacy of any person for public office.
The one-minute clip, pictured right, dates to 2007 and was among the oldest videos on the website. It was removed Tuesday.
Murphy Chief of Staff Susan Mosychuk acknowledged the mistake, but called it was a minor oversight.
“As Democrats boo-hoo about a video clip from 5 years ago, Washington County taxpayers are still asking to be repaid for the self-promotional campaign tchotchkes Larry Maggi bought with their money,” she said, referring to an incident described below in more detail.
Meanwhile, another source noted that Maggi broke the rules when he failed to submit his personal financial disclosure form in time for the March 25 pre-primary deadline; it wasn’t received by the House Clerk until mid-May. It was eyebrow-raising, given the fact that Maggi loaned his campaign over $125,000 in the first quarter.
Maggi’s campaign chalked it up to a simple mistake.
“I do regret that staff error that led to us submitting our personal disclosure a few weeks late but Commissioner Larry Maggi has submitted his personal disclosure with Washington County every year since he was first elected Sheriff in 1997 and our personal disclosure on the Federal level is now available for everyone to see,” said Maggi Campaign Manager Bradley Komar. “Larry Maggi has been 100 percent transparent and this does not even compare to Congressman Murphy who has been investigated by the FBI for using taxpayer dollars for campaign purposes.”
It’s not the first time either man has run into problems with the rules. As Mosychuk noted, Maggi took heat in 2002 for allegedly using county funds for campaign-style promotional materials. He said there was no rule against such materials, which included coloring books promoting the DARE program. No charges were ever filed. Murphy, meanwhile, faced an FBI investigation in 2006 for allegedly directing official staff to conduct campaign work. Murphy denied any wrongdoing and no charges were ever filed.