Judicial Candidates Spar over Campaign Contributions
Encouraging Pennsylvanians to get out and vote for Republican Commonwealth and Superior Court candidates next week, Lt. Gov. Jim Cawley highlighted the importance of these offices Tuesday saying the courts will likely ultimately decided policies surrounding the Marcellus Shale industry and education reform as well as redistricting.
“The decisions that are going to be made seven days from now are so vitally important to the quality of life for the people of this Commonwealth. It does matter who your local township supervisor is, it does matter who your mayor and council are,” Cawley said, “and let me tell you, it very much matters who puts on a black robe and sits on a bench.”
Commonwealth Court candidate Anne Covey and Superior Court candidate Vic Stabile also attended the press conference hosted by the Republican Party of Pennsylvania. State party chairman, Rob Gleason said they anticipate only 25 percent of Pennsylvanians will vote in Tuesday’s statewide and municipal election.
The most recent campaign finance reports, released last Thursday, show that Stabile has raised $198,000 so far, according to the Associated Press. His opponent, Allegheny County Judge David Wecht has raised $512,000.
Democratic Commonwealth Court candidate Kathryn Boockvar has raised $352,000 while opponent Anne Covey had received nearly $343,000 according to the AP.
Stabile received $25,000 from the Philadelphia Trial Lawyers Association’s PAC Committee for a Better Tomorrow, according to the Associated Press. However, the group donated $300,000 his opponent, Allegheny County Judge David Wecht.
Stabile said, “I was very upset last week to see that my opponent received $300,000 from the Philadelphia Trial Lawyers Association [Committee For a Better Tomorrow]. That is the amount of money that most appellate candidates can hope to raise in these races, and they provided that to him in a single check. Obviously that has me at a disadvantage in terms of media … It does make it a noncompetitive race in many regards.”
The Committee for a Better Tomorrow actually donated the money to Wecht on two different occasions: $50,000 in September and $250,000 in October.
Wecht said he wanted to stay away from negative campaigning of partisan bickering but said, “I’m sure that my opponent [Stabile] would take contributions if he could get them.”
Wecht said the group’s contribution would not affect his ability to rule on cases if elected to the post, saying he would have “no idea which lawyer gave what” to the PAC “so there would be no possibility” he could consider the contributions of individual lawyers.
Earlier in the campaign, Wecht unsuccessfully lobbied Stabile to sign a pledge denouncing financial or advertising support from third party interest groups and 527s.
Stabile said he does not take issue with the fact that the trial lawyer’s PAC contributed to the race but the fact that they donated a disproportionate amount.
But Mark Nicastre, spokesman for the Pennsylvania Democratic Party, said Stabile’s complaint is hypocritical.
“Republicans have been steady advocates for unlimited campaign contributions, secret campaign contributions and corporate contributions through shady organizations. They are only complaining now because there deep pocketed donors haven’t come through this year,” Nicastre said.
Mike Dineen, Wecht’s campaign manager, confirmed that the Committee for a Better Tomorrow’s $300,000 donation is the largest is the largest contribution they have received but noted that in previous judicial elections state parties had contributed similar amounts.
Recently, Wecht’s campaign has expanded its television ad buy, originally just in the Pittsburgh area, to the Altona/Johnstown and Wilkes-Barre/Scranton media markets.