Friday, May 25, 2012
Did Mayor Pawlowski Launder an $8,000 Campaign Donation in 2005?
As most of you know, a person running for office in Pennsylvania is required to file periodic expense reports, listing donors and how the money was spent. The sky's the limit on how much you can raise or spend, but any person or PAC that gives you $50 or more must be identified. This is usually done through a campaign committee.
There's another kind of committee, too, called a Political Action Committee (PAC). This is usually formed by persons who might have a common interest in some issue or who belong to some organization. Periodic expense reports are required from PACs, too.
Despite claims that he's been "totally transparent," Pawlowski has actually run afoul of campaign finance reporting laws at least three times since he was elected mayor in 2005. In 2007, Hizzoner attempted to get away with using campaign funds to pay a $270 fine for a late report. He was ordered him to pay the money out of his own pocket. In 2008, he filed a bogus report, falsely claiming his coffers were empty, when he actually raised $101,599. He was ordered to amend that report, too. In 2009, he listed a $8,000 payment on election day for "miscellaneous canvassers," without bothering to list who they were or where they live. Ordered to do so, we learned that he trolled an Easton homeless shelter for his 26 campaign workers.
Last year, a nonelection year, he raked in over $250,000, and according to The Morning Call, more than $70,000 of that come from donors who have an interest in the Queen City's controversial Neighborhood Improvement Zone (NIZ). I decided it was time to take a closer look at Pawlowski's expense reports, starting in 2005, when he first ran for office.
Unfortunately, I'm still stuck on 2005. It looks like I've found a fourth campaign expense reporting violation. This time, it involves an effort to keep you from learning who gave him $8,000 in the month before the election.
Pawlowski's 2005 pre-election expense report reveals that in October 2005, he received checks for $5,000 and $3,000 from a PAC called Latinos for a New Lehigh Valley. So far, so good. That sure is a lot of Latino support. But just who in the Lehigh Valley's Latino community donated $8,000? Where did the PAC get its money? I asked to see its report.
There is none. Despite being registered in Lehigh County as a PAC for many years, Latinos for a New Lehigh Valley filed no campaign finance report at all in 2005. Or 2006. Or ever.
Was it filed in Harrisburg, with the State Bureau of Elections? According to staffers there, no PAC is registered and no report was filed.
So just who is behind this $8,000 donation? Pawlowski's report lists an address for the PAC. I traced it to Julio Guridy, who currently is Allentown's City Council President. But Guridy does not live there. The person who did, at least in 2005, was none other than Edward DeGrace.
In a 2009 Morning Call op-ed, DeGrace is identified as the "former chair of Latinos for a New Lehigh Valley." He failed to file a campaign finance report that would let us follow the money.
DeGrace worked for Pawlowski's 2005 Mayoral campaign. I tried contacting him, but his telephone number has been disconnected.
Do I think he came up with $8,000 for Pawlowski in 2005? People who donate that kind of money usually can keep their phones in service.
So where did the $8,000 come from? The absence of a report tells me that the real source of that money is NOT Lehigh Valley Latinos. I suspect Hizzoner used the Latino group to create the false impression that he is wildly popular among Latinos, and to prevent you from learning the identity of his real donor.
I will continue trying to track down DeGrace, and will ask Mayor Pawlwoski whether he was laundering money in 2005, and whether he still does so.
Noon Update: What does DeGrace Have to Say?
I was able to get his cell phone number, and called him. "I've got nothing to say to you," DeGrace said, and then hung up.