In a conversation I had with Sterns after my post, he denied that his group does anything improper and claimed his flyers are designed to educate the electorate. A Simmons campaign spokesperson tells me, "this is just an attempt to deflect attention away from Horton's record." But the HDCC sees things a little differently, as this news release reveals.
"During the last three weeks, Citizens Alliance of Pennsylvania has sent four campaign mailers to residents of the 131st House District endorsing Simmons. Although Citizens Alliance operates a political action committee, the four Simmons mailers came from the group’s non-profit arm.
"Federal law forbids 'social welfare,' or 501(c)(4), organizations such as Citizens Alliance from operating primarily to influence elections.
"But it is unclear what else Citizens Alliance does. Since its founding earlier this year, Citizens Alliance and its associated PAC have endorsed several candidates for office, and the group’s chairman, retired Republican state Rep. John Kennedy, admitted in an interview in March that the group’s goal is to elect 40-50 'like-minded' candidates to the Legislature, where they can be counted on to fall in line with their secret backers’ right-wing agenda.
"In Simmons’ case, it is the charity, not the political action committee, that has taken the lead on influencing his campaign, openly endorsing his candidacy on four separate political mailers.
"A formal request for an investigation of Citizens Alliance’s activities was filed Wednesday with the Department of State’s Bureau of Campaigns, Elections and Legislation. HDCC also filed a complaint Tuesday with the state Bureau of Charitable Organizations’ Division of Investigations and Audits, which forwarded the request to the IRS.
"'It’s outrageous that Justin Simmons and his shadowy backers are manipulating the law to try to steal this election,' said Fiona Conroy, executive director of HDCC. 'Citizens Alliance is clearly primarily interested in campaigning on behalf of its secret donors and in support of right-wing extremist candidates. Such activity is forbidden by federal law. Simmons’ apparent willingness to align with groups like this casts doubt upon his ethics and his judgment.'