Campaign finance reports filed Friday reveal that Lehigh County Exec Don Cunningham is using his healthy, $700 thousand, campaign warchest to build his powerbase, stacking the Lehigh County Board of Commissioners. It's a political power play, although I'm sure he'd justify it as an attempt to make government more efficient. The downside is that, instead of an independent legislative body that asks questions and provides oversight, you end up with rubber stamps.
This year's rubber stamps are candidates Hillary Kwiatek, running against incumbent Glenn Eckhart in District 5; and Jeanne McNeill, running against Tom Creighton in District 1. They've been so excited to take Cunningham's money and help that they can't be bothered to follow election disclosure laws. Instead of informing the public, their filed campaign reports actually mislead them. Let me explain what happened.
This month, Kwiatek and McNeill sent out four, professionally prepared, 8 x 11 mailers each. One of Kwiatek's missives is a hit job against incumbent Glenn Eckhart, complete with grainy black and white photo. Take a gander.
Hillary Kwiatek Campaign Flyer
Sure, Kwitek's slam is inaccurate. Rather than being against police, Eckhart actually voted to increase the size of Salisbury's force 40% when he was a township supervisor. But hey, I admire the quality of the work.
Now two of these mailers for each candidate arrived before the Monday, October 19th cutoff for reporting campaign expenses. The third must have been in the mail because those pieces arrived on the 20th. The cost of all three mailers was obviously incurred before the cutoff date.
Where did Kwiatek and McNeill get the money? Campaign finance reports filed Friday, which covers the period between June 8 and October 19th, not only fail to answer that question, but are downright misleading.
McNeill reports receiving $8,900 and spending just $2,900, leaving her with approximately $6,000. Kwiatek is a mirror image. She pulled in $6,800 and spent only $3,000. They both report only one $250 donation from the Cunningham camp. (Their reports can be downloaded here). The cost of these mailers is reflected nowhere.
So who paid for these mailers? Cunningham. Let me tell you how I know.
Cunningham's campaign committee made two contributions to the Pennsylvania Democratic party on October 5 ($22,000) and October 9 ($50,000), totalling $72,000.00. The state party took that money and spent it for the following:
* Postage for Kwiatek mailing (10/16/09) $1,170.70.
* Postage for MacNeill mailing (10/16/09) $1,179.54.
* Payment to Gumbinner & Davies for Design, Print, Mail House for unspecified "Lehigh County Candidates" (10/16/09) $52,447.49.
* Postage-mailing for Don Conningham (10/15/09) $4,670.51.
* Postage-mailing for unspecified "Lehigh County Candidates" (10/13/09) $5,074.75.
* Postage-mailing for unspecified "Lehigh County Candidates" (10/6/09) $4,767.52
By October 19th, Cunningham had paid nearly $70,000 to promote Kwiatek and MacNeill.
Hillary Kwiatek was actually an active participant in this Cunningham-financed mail campaign. On her Facebook page, in a post entitled The Impact of Mail, Kwiatek muses "A candidate pores over her mail pieces making sure everything is accurate and reflects who she is as a candidate and then hopes for the best." She is very excited by how her "first mail piece" was received, noticing it has increrased traffic n the Internet. But she's not excited enough to tell her readers that Cunningham is paying for those mailers. She's not excited enough to include its cost on her finance report, as required by our election laws. Neither McNeill nor Kwiatek bother to tell you that County Executive Don Cunningham is trying to buy their election, to the tune of nearly $70,000 so far. Both attempt to mislead you into thinking he's only given them $250 apiece. If Kwiatek and MacNeill are this deceptive as candidates, what will happen when they're elected?
* In early Oct. Don Cunningham’s campaign transferred $72,000 to the PA Democrat Committee.
* Through Oct. 24th, Kwiatek and McNeill have sent out 4 mailers each with a total combined cost of approximately $25,000.
* Two of the mailers for each candidate arrived before the Monday, October 19th cutoff for reporting campaign expenses and 1 for each candidate was in the mail at that point, arriving on Oct. 20th.
* Three of Kwiatek’s mailers and three of McNeill’s mailers list them as being paid for by the PA Democrat Committee.
* The three Kwiatek mailers that arrived (or were in the mail) before the 19th were all paid for by the PA Democrat Committee.
* The three McNeill mailers that arrived (or were in the mail) before the 19th were all paid for by the PA Democrat Committee.
* Kwiatek wrote on her Facebook page on Oct. 15th about reviewing the mailers and that the first had arrived, so she knew that they had been sent.
* The PA Democrat Committee reports spending $52,447.49 on Oct. 16th for “design, print and mail house” for “Lehigh County candidates”
* The PA Democrat Committee reports spending $1,170.70 (enough for 10,000 to 12,000 mailers) on Oct. 16th for postage on Kwiatek.
* The PA Democrat Committee reports spending $1,179.54 (enough for 10,000 to 12,000 mailers) on Oct. 16th for postage on McNeill.
* Neither Kwiatek nor McNeill reported any direct expenses or in-kind contributions on their campaign finance reports that reflect the money spent (design, production and postage) for their mailers that went out before the Oct. 19th cutoff. At a bare minimum the postage needed to be reported. Kwiatek, in particular, can not claim ignorance of the fact that the mailers had gone out since she talked about them at her Facebook site.
Update: Kwiatek Amends Report! In an email, Hillary Kwiatek announces that she has amended her report to reflect the state party's in-kind contributions. She claims she received that documentation on Friday, after her report had already been prepared, and opted to amend it today rather than wait for the next reporting period "in the interest of greater transparency."
Kwiatek adds, "I want to say in the strongest terms possible that I would never intentionally deceive or mis-report information on these reports. I take the oath my signature represents on those forms very seriously, and my integrity means a great deal to me. The fact of the matter is, I simply didn't have the documentation of these contributions when my treasurer and I completed my report. As you realize, you cannot document an in-kind contribution without the necessary information. Once I received the information, the report was amended in as quick a manner as I could manage, given my treasurer's work schedule and the like."