Arch-villian Dean Browning took some time out from sticking needles into Cunningham voodoo dolls yesterday to forward this reply to Dan Kelly's jeremiad.
The purpose of the campaign finance reports filed this past Friday was to report campaign donations made to and expense made by and for candidates for the period from June 9, 2009 through October 19, 2009. With that in mind, it is important to review what the voters know today that they did not know when the reports were initially filed. Thanks to the reporting by Lehigh Valley Ramblings, the Examiner.com and The Morning Call, voters now know the following:
* The Friends of Donald Cunningham, Jr. (FDCJ) committee sent $72,000 to the PA Democratic Committee.
* This money was then used to produce three mailers for Hillary Kwiatek and three mailers for Jeanne McNeill. (see their reports here).
* All six mailers were either delivered or in the mail on or before October 19.
* The combined cost of these mailers was $34,861.23 with $17,058.53 for Kwiatek and $17,802.70 for McNeill.
* Dan Kelly (Cunningham’s campaign manager) reports on October 27th that this is the total spent “to date”. But a fourth McNeill mailer, paid for by the PA Democrat Committee, arrived on or around October 24th. So it is unclear if the $34,861.23 is actually the total spent “to date”.
* Neither Kwiatek nor McNeill reported this large expense in their initial reports, claiming instead that the total money spent on their campaigns was $3,589.58 and $3,895.76, respectively.
Both Kwiatek and McNeill are first time candidates. It is possible they were unclear about the reporting requirements (although that doesn’t speak highly of their future ability to review and monitor a $400 million County budget). Their sensible response was acknowledging their error, filing an amended report and then moving on. Rather than let them do that, the local Democrat party and the Cunningham campaign chose to engage in several attempts at misdirection.
Their initial attempt was a news release claiming that the Lehigh County Republican Committee (LCRC) and the Lehigh County Victory PAC (LCVP) had “FAILED to file a financial report with the County, State, or any regulatory body at all”. [Blogger's note: I never published that news release]
When this accusation was quickly shown to be false [Blogger's note: That's why I never published that news release], they moved on to the most recent approach. Now, Kelly is claiming that financial reports filed by the LCRC [Lehigh County Republican Committee] and LCVP [Lehigh County Victory PAC] are incorrect. Of course, the release which trumpets this claim also includes the standard personal attacks.
Leaving those gratuitous comments aside, the fact is that these financial reports are correct. Through October 19, 2009 the LCVP spent $6,801.00 on four commissioner candidates and this was reported as an in-kind contribution on each of their finance reports. Any additional money spent by the LCVP was for its own operations and on GOTV efforts to benefit all Lehigh County candidates on November 3rd. Through October 19, 2009, the LCRC did not have any expenses related to the Republican candidates for County Commissioner. That can easily be determined by a cursory review of the online report.
This Cunningham campaign news release also tries to argue that the Executive's contributions to Commissioner Candidates are really no different from donations by the LCRC or the LCVP. That's wrong for two reasons.
First, neither the LCRC, LCVP (nor I) develop the annual operating budget submitted to the Board of Commissioners for approval. That is the responsibility of the County Executive.
Second, neither the LCRC, LCVP (nor I) negotiate contracts with the Collective Bargaining Units that represent the County’s employees and submit them to the Board of Commissioners for review and approval. That is the responsibility of the County Executive.
The Board of Commissioners has a responsibility as a separate and distinct body of County government to act as an appropriate check and balance on the County Executive and his Administration. The question for voters to decide is whether a Commissioner whose election was made possible by donations from the County Executive can exercise independence, question and say no, if necessary, to that same County Executive.
The main question in all of this is whether Kwiatek and McNeill, if elected, will be able to function independently from Don and stand up to him when required. That is a vital role for any Commissioner. I’m sure if you ask them that question they will say, “Yes, absolutely, we will be independent.” However, in my opinion, they missed the opportunity to demonstrate that when they failed to say no when Don offered to fund their campaigns. In other words, they have already failed the “independent” test. I don’t think they should be given a second chance.