PA-2: Fattah’s Ex-Chief of Staff Pleads Guilty

Chaka-FattahIt’s been a cruel summer for Rep. Chaka Fattah.

The Congressman’s son was indicted earlier this month for defrauding the IRS and stealing from Philadelphia schools.

Now, his former Chief of Staff Gregory Naylor has pleaded guilty to several counts of campaign finance fraud.

According to Roll Call, Naylor concealed the theft of grants and charitable funds to repay debts from a 2007 campaign. Naylor was working on Fattah’s mayoral bid at the time.

“Naylor was aware that large amounts of money from an unexplained source were being spent on Elected Official A’s campaign, and Naylor helped to conceal the source of those funds by preparing a false invoice for services rendered by his consulting firm,” a Department of Justice report states. “Naylor subsequently learned that Elected Official A and others orchestrated the theft of federal grant funds to repay the outstanding balance of the campaign debt, and he agreed to the falsification of campaign finance reports to further conceal Elected Official A’s activities.”

The DOJ also found that Naylor used campaign funds to pay off the college debts of his candidate’s son. Jeremy Roebuck of the Inquirer reported that $22,663 was spent in this scheme.

“Some of the payments originated directly from the local campaign fund, and some were illegally sourced from Elected Official A’s federal campaign election committee and passed through the local campaign fund account to Naylor,” the DOJ release detailed.

“Naylor made approximately $22,000 in improper payments between August 2007 and April 2011 at Elected Official A’s request,” it continued. “Naylor also falsely claimed on IRS forms that the payments made towards the college debt were earned income to Elected Official A’s son for services rendered as an independent contractor to Naylor’s consulting firm. When confronted by federal agents in investigative interviews about the payments, Naylor lied on two occasions and repeated his cover story that the son of Elected Official A was an independent contractor working for his political consulting firm.”

The report was very careful not to name who “Elected Official A” was, but obviously it appears Rep. Fattah’s troubles may have only just begun.

PA-6: Costello Endorsed by the NFIB

CostelloRepublican PA-6 nominee and Chester County Commissioner Ryan Costello won the support of the National Federation of Independent Business (NFIB) today.

“NFIB is a leading voice on behalf of the nation’s small businesses, which are one of the major drivers of our economic and job growth,” Costello stated. “I am honored to have the support of an organization that advocates for and champions small business. If elected, I will work to implement policies that promote job creation, reduce barriers to economic growth, and cut bureaucratic red tape that saps the resources of small businesses and inhibit their ability to expand and hire new workers.”

“When he was a Chester County Commissioner Ryan balanced budgets, cut government spending, and reduced the size of county government all while making investments in open space,” said NFIB Executive State Director Kevin Shivers. “It’s policies like that which make small businesses feel more confident about expanding and hiring. Government must live within its means and keeps tax rates low. We need that same mindset in Washington, D.C. where an out of control federal budget deficit has small businesses nervous about their economic future and potential for growth. That’s why we support Ryan Costello for Congress.”

The NFIB was founded in 1943 and represents 15,000 businesses in Pennsylvania. The endorsement was made by the organization’s Save America’s Free Enterprise (SAFE) Trust.

Costello is running to represent Pennsylvania’s 6th congressional district, which comprises parts of Berks, Chester, Lebanon and Montgomery Counties. The Democratic nominee is physician Manan Trivedi.

PA-8: Strouse Creates Anti-Fitzpatrick Website

Kevin Strouse loresIn 21st century politics, combative websites have become the norm and that’s no different in the battle for PA-8.

The Strouse campaign announced their own such effort today, which they’ve dubbed “Fitz’s Fibs”.

This effort is an attempt to chip away at Fitzpatrick’s reputation as a moderate Southeast PA Republican. The Congressman has worked assiduously over the years to build this image and his ability to hold onto the swing district is a testament to his success.

The Strouse campaign is convinced Fitzpatrick’s reputation is a facade and they’ve decided to take particular aim at the Representative over his ties to the oil industry.

“In the district, Congressman Fitzpatrick claims that he has opposed subsidies for big oil companies,” Strouse stated. “But after taking more than $70,000 in campaign donations from oil companies, he voted to protect billions of dollars of subsidies for big oil, despite his empty promises. To add insult to injury, he has sided with Governor Corbett on gas drilling companies, keeping Pennsylvania as the only state in the entire country that does not get the benefit of an extraction tax for the drilling of the state’s natural resources.”

The Democratic nominee went on to pledge to end the subsidies and assert that the incumbent is only concerned with the interests of oil companies.

The 8th congressional district consists of all of Bucks County as well as parts of upper Montgomery County.

PA-6: Trivedi Campaign Accuses Costello of Donor Payouts

Costello Protest

Protest by the Chester County Democratic Party

The campaign of Democratic nominee for Pennsylvania’s 6th District Manan Trivedi, accused Republican opponent Ryan Costello of using his position as Chair of the Chester County Board of Commissioners to hand out million dollar contracts to his political donors today.

According to Trivedi’s campaign, in less than three years as a commissioner Costello has awarded various political contributors with large contracts, totaling more than $29 million.

They further allege that at a meeting today, Costello awarded one of the largest contributors to his campaign for Congress a contract for more than $14 million, nearly matching the cost of all contracts from the past two years.

Trivedi spokesman Daren Berringer pointed to the contracts as an example of how Costello would help to perpetuate the lack of trust in government that many citizens hold today.

“It is clear that in a very short amount of time as commissioner, Ryan Costello has played politics as usual by doling out millions upon millions of dollars in contracts to his political donors,” he said.

“With the culture of corruption being what it is in Washington these days, Ryan Costello would fit in nicely, but voters in the 6th District deserve better from their next representative. Manan Trivedi has pledged to fight for stronger restrictions on lobbying because he believes members of Congress should serve their constituents, not the deep pocketed donors that fund their campaigns.”

Peter Towey, Costello’s campaign manager, countered that many offices must review new contracts before they reach the desks of the County Commissioners, and that at no point does Costello have contact with vendors seeking contracts during the negotiation process.

“These attacks are a joke just like Trivedi’s campaign for Congress,” Towey told PoliticsPA. “These businesses have been providing services to the county long before Ryan ever became a Commissioner, and were recommended by non-partisan staff and voted on unanimously by both Democrats and Republicans.”

“This is nothing more than an attempt from a desperate candidate to distract voters from the fact that Trivedi doesn’t live or work in Pennsylvania, and would be a rubber-stamp for Nancy Pelosi’s extreme views in Congress,” Towey concluded.

Roll Call Excludes PA From Top Five List of Mid-Atlantic Races to Watch

mike-fitzpatrick2Roll Call released a list of the top 5 races to watch in the Mid-Atlantic region today, and excluded any races from Pennsylvania.

Author Nathan Gonzales even went so far as to say that “It’s a bad sign for Democrats when they have more Mid-Atlantic congressional opportunities in West Virginia than in Pennsylvania.”

This list signals a change from last summer, when Roll Call listed PA-8 as a race to watch. Even then, the district was categorized as “Republican Favored”, though the race was still considered one to keep an eye on.

Gonzales’s description of PA-8 this time around, however, is short and packed with bad news for PA Democrats.

“GOP Rep. Michael G. Fitzpatrick is running strong in Pennsylvania’s 8th District, and his race with Democrat Kevin Strouse should barely be considered competitive at this point,” he wrote.

Roll Call’s slight change in prediction is just one indicator in a slowly growing line of pundits downgrading the once optimistic chances of both Kevin Strouse in PA-8 and Democratic nominee Manan Trivedi in PA-6.

The organization did include NJ-3 on their list, which echoes DCCC Chair Steve Israel’s comments last month. This would suggest that the New Jersey race, and not one of the two SEPA contests, are the Democrats’ top priority in the Delaware Valley.

Map: PA-13 Democratic Primary

The hotly contested Democratic primary election for Pennsylvania’s 13th congressional district was one of most noteworthy congressional primaries in the country. The contentious campaign featured four well-funded candidates, including three with significant political experience.

However, State Representative Brendan Boyle’s decisive win on election night left many observers wondering whether or not the primary was ever legitimately competitive. Boyle received 40.61% of the vote, finishing well in front of former Congresswoman Marjorie Margolies (27.41%), State Senator Daylin Leach (16.60%), and Dr. Valerie Arkoosh (15.38%).

PoliticsPA took an in-depth look at the PA-13 Democratic primary election results to understand the dynamics behind Boyle’s strong victory.

Unsurprisingly, geography and party unity played the decisive role in determining the PA-13 Democratic primary election results.

Whereas Margolies (Wynnewood), Leach (Wayne), and Arkoosh (Wyndmoor) all hailed from Montgomery County, Boyle was Philadelphia’s only candidate, and the results reflected this split.

While Boyle finished in last place in Montgomery County with 16.05% of the vote, running far behind Margolies (35.34%), Leach (26.53%), and Arkoosh (22.04%), he crushed his opponents in Philadelphia. Boyle took 69.37% of the vote in the City, finishing well ahead of Margolies (18.10%), Arkoosh (7.58%), and Leach (4.96%).

The map below shows the Democratic primary results for PA-13 broken down by municipality in Montgomery County. Municipalities won by Boyle are shown in red, Margolies in blue, Leach in purple, and Arkoosh in green. A light shade represents a victory by plurality, and a dark shade represents a victory by majority.

13th District Primary Map

As expected, candidates showed strength in their respective home bases. Boyle decisively won Northeast Philadelphia and the Borough of Rockledge in Montgomery County (the only portion of Montgomery County located in his State House district).

Leach was criticized for living in a portion of Upper Merion Township located in the neighboring 7th congressional district, yet still won every municipality located in both PA-13 and his Senate district, other than Plymouth Township. Leach also won Ambler, which borders his Senate district.

Arkoosh, from Springfield Township, won her home township handily. She also won nearby Jenkintown.

Finally, Margolies, who lives outside of the district in Lower Merion Township, won the portions of Montgomery County not located in any other candidate’s home region. Margolies’ strength countywide was likely due to her having represented most of the current PA-13 for a single term in the 1990s.

Above all else, the 2014 Democratic primary election results in PA-13 should serve as a lesson that party unity and political geography matter as much as any other factor in a heated primary contest – and possibly more.

A single Montgomery County candidate theoretically could have won the Democratic primary in the 13th district because Montgomery County voters cast 53.9% of the district’s votes, and Montgomery County candidates combined for almost 60% of the vote district-wide.

Unfortunately for the Montgomery County Democratic Party, what allowed for a Philadelphia Democrat to win the seat was that three Montgomery County candidates ran and split the county’s votes. Even if Arkoosh had not run and Margolies would have somehow won all of her votes, their combined vote total still falls 1,988 votes behind Boyle’s.

It is likely that Montgomery County Democrats would have had to unite behind a single candidate in order to defeat a Philadelphia candidate. However, unlike in Philadelphia where State Rep. Mark Cohen dropped his bid and supported Boyle, all three MontCo candidates stayed in the race until the end. This almost certainly doomed any of the Montgomery County candidates’ chances from the very start of the race.

PA-8: Strouse Hosts Office Grand Opening Event

Strouse EventDemocratic candidate for Pennsylvania’s 8th congressional district Kevin Strouse hosted a grand opening party at his brand new office in Doylestown yesterday, accompanied by Steve Cickay, Democratic candidate for PA Senate district 10, and Eric Nagy, the new Executive Director of the Bucks County Democratic Committee. Strouse will face incumbent Mike Fitzpatrick in the general election.

A grassroots atmosphere permeated the night, both in the decor and the words spoken by Strouse, Cickay, and Nagy. Homemade signs reading “Raise the Wage,” “People, not Banks,” “Stand with Strouse,” and “Turn Bucks Blue” hung throughout the office, where Strouse’s friends, family, and volunteers and local residents stood eating hoagies and drinking soda from solo cups. Attendees wrote why they were voting for Strouse on large colorful post-it notes and stuck them to the walls.

Nagy, who introduced Cickay, focused on the growth of the Bucks County Democratic Committee and the rebranding it is currently undergoing. “If we want to change the committee, optics go a long way,” he said. “We’re only going to be taken as seriously as we take ourselves.”

He discussed not just Kevin’s race in November, but the necessity of maintaining grassroots activism across other PA races and into the future after 2014’s races have been decided.

“We will turn this county blue once and for all. If you’re tired of Chuck McIlhinney, here’s your guy,” he said, pointing at Cikay. “If you’re tired of Mike Fitzpatrick, here’s your guy,” he claimed, pointing to Strouse.

“And if you’re tired of Tom Corbett, I got a guy for ya, and his name is Tom Wolf. Together, these three gentlemen are going to help turn not only our county around, but our state around. This is the year to do it. Don’t believe what anybody tells you, we can do it this year.”

Cikay, who introduced Strouse, did not say much, focusing mostly on Strouse’s credentials. In discussing Strouse’s ivy-education, Cikay joked, “It would be refreshing to have a bright man in Congress.”

Strouse pointed to recent declines of the people’s faith in government as reasons why his campaign strategies would thrive, making references to last October’s government shutdown – while noting Fitzpatrick’s role in that drama – and the too-large six-figure salaries of members of Congress.

“This is the kind of campaign that wins elections, especially in a year like 2014, when most of the country is disillusioned,” Strouse said. “And you should be. If you’re not disillusioned, then you’re not paying attention.”

He closed with strong optimism for the next 90 days of the campaign. “Despite all that [disillusionment], there is a great positive energy here. This is the kind of grassroots stuff that kicks off a strong campaign that stands in sharp contrast to what our opponent is doing right now.”

Strouse faces a tough campaign season, and will have to overcome Fitzpatrick’s cash advantage and his strong familiarity with the district if he hopes to win in November.

Cook Political Report Adjusts Ratings for PA-6 and PA-8

Costello Fitzpatrick

Fitzpatrick and Costello

The Cook Political Report changed its ratings in PA-6 and PA-8 from “Leans Republican” to “Likely Republican” yesterday, signaling a shift away from the Democratic candidates in PA’s most competitive House races.

Democrat Manan Trivedi is competing with Republican Ryan Costello for the PA-6 seat vacated by Republican Rep. Jim Gerlach, while Democrat Kevin Strouse is battling Republican incumbent Mike Fitzpatrick for his seat in PA-8.

Both Trivedi and Strouse showed early promise, with the DCCC labeling them “Red to Blue” districts and choosing to spend significant cash on ad buys in the Philly TV market. Recently, though, the Democratic nominees have lost some steam. They were outraised by their Republican opponents and omitted from the DCCC Chairman’s personal list of top targets for the party.

In PA-6, the Cook Political Report points to Costello’s position as Gerlach’s “ideological heir” and Trivedi’s history of losing the general election in 2010 and 2012 as reason for the switch. Costello also has a significant cash advantage.

In PA-8, the Report sees Fitzpatrick’s leg-up in both fundraising and surveys as evidence that he currently holds the upper hand against Strouse.

The 6th and 8th are the only PA districts on the DCCC’s Red to Blue list and thus represent the organization’s top priorities in the Keystone state.

Pelosi Chases Rep. Marino Across House Chamber

Tom-MarinoOn August 1st, the American people witnessed something they see all the time in Congress followed by something they rarely see in Congress.

During a debate on the border-funding bill, Representative Tom Marino (R-Williamsport) aimed an incendiary attack at the Democratic leadership’s failure to enact comprehensive border reform while in control of Congress. Though attacks across the aisle occur all too often now, House Minority Leader Nancy Pelosi’s response was a tad unusual.

“We don’t have law and order,” Marino began as he concluded his comments on the border supplemental. “My colleagues on the other side don’t want to do anything about it.”

“You know something that I find quite interesting about the other side? Under the leadership of the former Speaker [Pelosi], and under the leadership of their former leader [Rep. Steny Hoyer], when in 2009 and 2010, they had the House, the Senate and the White House, and they knew this problem existed,” Marino said. “They didn’t have the strength to go after it back then. But now are trying to make a political issue out of it now.”

It was this assertion that sent Leader Pelosi across the aisle, in plain view of cameras, to directly challenge Marino’s claim.

Although Pelosi’s comments were off-mic, Marino replied with “Yes it is true. I did the research on it. You might want to try it. You might want to try it, Madam Leader. Do the research on it. Do the research. I did it. That’s one thing that you don’t do.”

Marino ended his time by urging lawmakers to support the border supplemental “because apparently I hit the right nerve.”

Marino then returned to his seat as his Republican colleagues applauded him while Pelosi charged him again, this time pointing and sticking her finger at him.

She continued to argue with Marino up the aisle, gesturing and arguing with him as Republican Lawmakers attempted to end the fighting by telling the chair that the House was not in order. Pelosi eventually returned to her seat and the House then promptly voted to approve the $694 million border supplemental, 223-189.

Shortly thereafter, Pelosi spokeswoman Evangeline George responded to the incident saying “Leader Pelosi just wanted to remind the Congressman that House Democrats had the courage to pass the DREAM Act – and have the courage to stand up for what the American people want: bipartisan, comprehensive immigration reform.”

George also stated that “Pelosi accepted the Congressman’s apology.”

However, Bill Tighe, Marino’s chief of staff, emphasized that Marino did not apologize to Pelosi and has no plan of doing so.

“[Rep. Marino] did not apologize to Leader Pelosi and does not intend to do so as he has nothing to apologize for. She was entirely out of line in approaching him while he was recognized and delivering remarks on the Floor,” Tighe wrote in an email. “Her staff’s comment in your story about her accepting his apology in simply not true.”

Later that night, Marino took to Twitter to explain his side of the story.

“Rep. Pelosi called me an ‘insignificant person’ on the Floor of the House. I’ll ponder that for a while driving to Williamsport tonight…of course I’ll be driving myself, with no staff or security. And I’m just a country lawyer who worked in a bakery until he was 30.”

PA-8: Fitzpatrick Defends Suing President on Party-line Vote

Oval OfficeMembers of Congress are getting ready to go on summer vacation, but not before the Republican-controlled House of Representatives decided to sue President Obama over his alleged overuse of executive power.

The vote highlighted the polarization of Congress as all the Democrats voted against the resolution and all but five Republicans voted for the it. Every representative from Pennsylvania voted along party lines.

The Republicans believe President Obama is utilizing executive orders in order to bypass Congress on important issues..

Mike Fitzpatrick cited Jonathan Turley when explaining the vote. Turley is a prominent lawyer and legal scholar who has testified in front of Congress about issues dealing with executive power. He has accused both the Bush and Obama Administrations of executive overreach and even testified for the impeachment of President Clinton.

“He expressed at the judiciary committee that, unfortunately, the president has overstepped his authority under the constitution, fairly clearly, that the House of Representatives has a very strong and firm basis to object and that an action would have merit,” Fitzpatrick said. “I would hope the president would come to Congress and ask for changes to the law rather than ignoring, bypassing or skirting the law, that’s what we seek.”

Democrats, meanwhile, are claiming that the lawsuit is a complete waste of time and money. Representative Bob Brady, for instance, wrote on Twitter, “Instead of wasting taxpayer dollars on this lawsuit against the President, the GOP should pass the Fair Minimum Wage Act! #DoYourJobHouseGOP”

Whether the lawsuit is a stunt depends on what side you ask. In any event, the move to sue President Obama is another sign of the antagonism between the two political parties.

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