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Nazareth, Pa., United States

Tuesday, December 30, 2008

Allentown Mayor Pawlowski Falsely Claims No Donors in Campign Report

Allentown Mayor Ed Pawlowski got himself into a bit of a jam last year over campaign finances. It's about to happen again. This is because he repeatedly stonewalls, doing everything in his power to defeat the public right to know. If that means violating elections laws, the fines aren't so bad. Let me tell you the story.

2006 and 2007 were very good years for the King of Pay to Play. He raked in a whopping $108,588, mostly from city workers, developers, contractors, consultants and lawyers who do business with the city. (You can view them here.) But as good as King Ed is at soliciting campaign funds, that's how lousy he can be at filing the reports that enable the public to follow the money.

On July 6, 2007, Pawlowski paid $270, the maximum fine under our toothless elections laws, for filing a late report. He actually attempted to get away with using campaign funds for his penalty. Voting Registrar Stacy Sterner ordered Pawlowski, in March, to pay the fine out of his own pocket.

Pawlowski, however, has learned nothing. After filing no campaign finance reports at all this year, he suddenly filed a "second Friday pre-election report" on October 24, 2008 to identify $1,500 his PAC had donated to candidates in November's election. His report fails to tell us where he got that $1,500.

The period covered by this report is between 1/1/08 and 10/20/08. Over those ten months, Pawlowski incredibly claims his campaign treasury is empty. Nada. Over that time, he reports having received no money. Zero. He claims he has no funds available. Zilch. Yet he somehow contributes $1,500. If you click on the above report, you can see it yourself. Unless he has a money printing press, his report makes no sense at all.

Wait. It gets better. According to campaign finance reports filed with the Department of State by other campaign committees, Pawlowski's PAC actually received at least $18,550 over the very time period in which he claims he got nothing. This includes a tidy $2,500 from Cozen O'Connor, the very law firm paid $114,000 to negotiate a controversial police contract. King Ed didn't want you to know about that.

Lehigh County's voter registration web page makes clear that "any financial activities directed toward influencing an election must be reported." In Pawlowski's case, this would include not only the sums he contributed to candidates, but also the source of that money. Our campaign finance law is even more clear. Once a committee receives or spends $250 or more to influence an election, a report must be filed that lists both contributions and expenditures. Reporting one without the other is only half the story.

The finance report Pawlowski filed with the Lehigh County voter registration office is, quite simply, a sham. When I visited the office yesterday, that single report was the only one office workers could find. There was no report for any other cycle. This lone filing is obviously designed to mislead the public. Instead of revealing the source of his contributions, or declining for whatever reason to state them, Pawlowski falsely claims there are none. He is shielding his pay to play tactics, and is even willing to sign a false report to defeat the public right to know.

That's why he's a bad mayor.
Update: A Lehigh County Voter Registration Deputy tells me that because Mayor Pawlowski is not a candidate in last year's election, he is under no obligation to list the contributions that were made to him. I disagree completely with this tortured interpretation of elections laws, but let's assume the deputy is right. Does this give the Mayor the right to mislead the public and falsely claim $0 in contributions? According to a Deputy Registrar, it does. If you interpret elections laws in a way that gives elected officials the right to lie to the public, there's something wrong.

Update #2: Pawlowski Ordered to Amend Report! I've just heard from Voting Registrar Stacy Sterner, who was kind enough to call me from home. She agrees that Pawlowski cannot simultaneously report a $0 balance and $1,500 in expenditures to candidates. His campaign committee is being instructed to amend its report.


J. SPIKE ROGAN said...

City line or city view constrution. (The ones who land the contracts to rebuild low income holmes damaged by fires) have Ed for mayor stickers on their trucks.

They pay to play do they not?

Pamela Varkony said...


This is a good piece of reporting and a wonderful public service.

Can't wait to see two things:

The Mayor's minions show up to defend him, and...

Whether the The Call and WFMZ pick up this story.

Fly on the Wall said...

The displayed finance report is bogus! It is an unfiled preliminary Department of State report by the nature of the bold stamp across the page!

Anonymous said...

First, that report does not appear to be bogus. It is time stamped by the Election Board, something that cannot be faked. It is also notarized by two different notary publics.

Second, as someone who is very familiar with the Campaign Finance Reporting System, it appears they may have used the online reporting system from the Dept. of State's website and did not actually file the report online. If you create a report using the online filing system, you can preview it prior to filing it and can print it out. However, when it is previewed it is stamped across the front with "Incomplete Report". It makes sense that it was not filed online, since Pawlowski is not required to file with the Dept. of State.

Anonymous said...


I echo the thoughts of many by writing that the Morning Call should feel shamed by this report. It wasn’t so long ago that we could look to this paper to report the facts, do basic research and conduct routine investigations. Those days are clearly past. Now the publisher and editors wonder why the paper is in real trouble. This refusal to give readers what they want (news)is the vehicle of their own undoing.

Scott Armstrong

Bernie O'Hare said...

Fly on Wall,

Although the report is stamped "incomplete," it is the copy on file at the Lehigh Ciounty Voter registration. It is signed and notarized. It is timestamped. I agree that it is a bogus report, but not bc it is an unfiled report. It is bgus bc it is a lie.

Anonymous said...

Scott Armstrong is correct! What ever happened to the Morning Call.
The last investigative report
was Lisa Boscola, how many years ago was that? Why isn't Morning Call investigating if golf course restaurant bids are fair and is it true Cityline Construction vans carry pro-mayor stickers?

Anonymous said...

Phillips reported he had no campaign contributions during his run for council and that he spent less than $250 of his own money.

Heck, lawn sign cost more than that. Tony had contributors for sure.

Anonymous said...

This post makes little sense at all.

Bernie O'Hare said...

Cityline is big time pay to play. I posted aboput them in March.

Between 2005 and 2007, City Line workers gave Pawlowski $12,000. As the city's contractor, it was paid $10,246.00 during 2006 and $52,130.74 during 2007.

Bernie O'Hare said...

Pam, I am disturbed that LC's electriopns office has interpreted the laws they administer in such a way as to give the mayor of Allentown carte blanche to lie to the public. This is NOT the view elsewhere.

Bernie O'Hare said...

SS Sam,

Your initials are apt, don't you think? This is a post that calls for transparency from a Mayor who is actively misleading the public.

Bernie O'Hare said...

Anon 9:35,

Let's stick to the topic, which is a campaign finance report, duly notarized and signed by the mayor, in which he falsely reports receiving no contributions between 1/1/08 and 10/20/08.

Anonymous said...

Is this really important? Does anybody really care about campaign finance anymore?

The next US president can't account for 1/3 of the record-breaking sum he amassed. Nobody cares - for a "change."

Obama's undocumented gazillions weren't a problem for this blog (which practically ejaculated upon his election). They were actually defended here. Why are a few loose bucks from Ed problematic? He should be given the same scrutiny as The One - i.e. none.

I guess if blogs like this watch the pennies, the gazillions will take care of themselves.

Carry on, oh selective watch (or is it lap?) dog! Once past the ridiculous double-standard, it's well crafted comedy.

Fly on the Wall said...

Anon 10:30
A very large part of Obama’s contributions were below $50 that do not require detailed reporting.

Anonymous said...

So the only defense of Ed Pawlowski is that Obama did even worse? While I agree the Obama fund raising effort and the media/Democrat response to it was duplicitous silence the time tested adage “two wrongs do not make right” must be employed. Otherwise surely every sin can be justified.

Scott Armstrong

Anonymous said...

I am shocked at the LC Election's office interpretation.

One thing is for sure, those contributions will need to be included on the annual report due in 30 days.

Anonymous said...

"A very large part of Obama’s contributions were below $50 that do not require detailed reporting."


My First Star Bank VISA debit card account was just jacked for $1,600 in 37, fraudulent, under $50 transactions over two and a half days. An electronic fraud perpetrated via gas station credit card systems.

One could easily design a system to donate a million, $50 contributions and push 50M untraceable dollars into a campaign.

Attention to the small individual donation was used by this space as a defense. The larger picture, tens of millions in untraceable money, has gone ignored in lieu of the Pawlowski lunch money search.

Keep yakking about $50. It draws attention from the larger fraud. And The One thanks you for your blind support.

Anonymous said...

Mr. O'Hare: This type of informed investigative reporting is your valuable service to the public. If my fellow Allentown residents relied on the traditional press, Pawlowski would be able to get away with his "Chicago Style" politics. Thank you for your diligence. I now read your blog before reading the Morning Call. Keep up the great work.

Bernie O'Hare said...

Wow! Thanks for the nice words. I appreciate them. A-town is lucky to have a small group of very active and concerned citizens who are far more diligent than I can claim. These include Scott Armstrong, Lou Hershman, Michael Donovan, Michael Molovinsky, Tony Phillips, Kay Pickel, Geoff Brace, Jeff Pooley, etc. These are people from both sides of the aisle who love to argue with each other about what is best. But they are people who agree on transparency and accountability. Without that, local government can be pretty bad. That's my objection to Pawlowski. He prefers to keep information hidden instead of making disclsoure, even if it includes a false statement under oath.

Geoff Brace said...

I have to wonder why LC made those interpretations. I also have to wonder how many other candidates have been told the same thing. We could really be looking at dozens of candidates from past years who have made no reports. If they were told this by the county office responsible for it, then I don't fault the candidates, but for goodness sake lets get this right so we can have the transparency that we deserve.

The county interpretation is troubling. Bernie, you may have unearthed a systematic problem that has kept the public uninformed. I wonder how long this has been the case. Will other candidates also be required to file amended reports? Are any of them in office right now? If so, did the county give them this interpretation as well?

Bernie O'Hare said...


I agree that it is a systemic problem. My interpretation of our campaign finance law is that any person who either receives a contribution or makes an expenditure, is a "candidate" covered by the law, regardless whether he is running that year. Once the candidate or his authorized committee spends or receives $250 or more, there must be a report. If he spends money to influence an election, his report must list both his expenditures and contributions. Moreover, if a candidate is required to file a second Friday pre-election report, he must also file a thirty day post election report. This is something Pawlowski also failed to do.

This interpretation is followed in other counties. Also, it is ridiculous to file a report that just lists expenditures withour listing where that money comes from.

Stacey Sterner, to her credit, has ordered Pawlowski to amend his report bc she recognizes that you can't simultaneously give $1500 in contributions and claim you have no money. She is seeking guidance from the Department of State.

I read the law to favor disclosure, which is obviously the legislative intent.

Anonymous said...

Keep up your investigations. You take a lot of abuse for it, we know.

Anonymous said...

Maybe next week you could contact Harrisburg officials to find out what is the truth as far as election laws go. And if what that first county official said is so, voters need to demand change.

Anonymous said...

So any minute now a Morning Call investigative reporter will be contacting you for a quote for this news-breaking expose sure to be posted online by two.

Fly on the Wall said...

I do not believe our illustrious Mayor is excluded from campaign finance reporting to the DOS. Click on Bernnie’s 12:50 post for the DOS campaign finance reporting law and read section 1626.

Anonymous said...

The mayor has to fill out the necessary forms and file them with the County not the DOS. Looking at it another way - the campaign finance reports should be filed at the same place as the petitions for a given candidate.


Anonymous said...

Bernie; Very newsworthy story. I agree with the others that the Morning Call is failing its readership by reporting on Christmas Lights and Musik Fest and ignoring these types of local political scandals. For instance, Bill White received 9 combined replies in his last 3 columns, while Paul carpenter fared slightly better with 14 combined replies in his past 3 columns. Don't these guys see that political corruption in Allentown is rampant and newsworthy?

Pamela Varkony said...

Bernie, according to your update the new official word from the Voter Reg. office is: "Pawlowski cannot simultaneously report a $0 balance and $1,500 in expenditures to candidates. His campaign committee is being instructed to amend its report."

Congratulations. Great job. Every once in a while the people win one.

Bernie O'Hare said...

Pam, I give all the credit in the world to Stacey Sterner, who recognized what was going on and took the steps to correct it.


Don't you guys know, the way it works in the game of politics is simple: some have to account for every penny and some don't. It's simple.

In baseball, one pitch will be called one way one day, another the next. It all depends who the umpire is.

We all know where the umpires come from these days, don't we?

Anonymous said...

This is probably the wrong angle Boonie.

At the end of the day, you are trying to convince the valley why Phillips is a better candidate than Pawlowski. If campaign finance reporting is your angle you will fail miserably.

Now, Booonie, Armstrong, anyone, please give us one little reason why Phillips is more qualified to be the mayor of Allentown than Pawlowski.

Bernie O'Hare said...

Actually, this has nothing to do with politics or Tony Phillips. It has everything to do with transparency and accountability. These are the fundamentals on which good government rests. If you don't have that, you might as well give up.

J. SPIKE ROGAN said...

anon 9:35 (top post)

The van that was on the Jackson street job in march had it.

They were working on a house a few doors down from me went on fire.

I passed it every day that month.

My power supply took a major crap then.

So I was not online to read that original post Bernie had.

If I had known, I would have stopped and taken a cell phone pic.

Although they can probaly not outlaw city line for the sticker. But it would clearly show City line is "politic'n" for work.

J. SPIKE ROGAN said...

And that was the 1100 block of Jackson Street in Easton Heights.

Mayor Panto himself was on the scene of that fire. It was pretty bad.

They came in and rebuilt the place, in the weeks that followed.

House of Crayons can testify to what house it was. He was the back up to the fire.

I'm sure someone else who reads this blog came by my old block that month and saw it.

Anonymous said...

I do not understand why there is a $2,500 donation limit for Federal races, but a land developer can pump a local candidate $5K. I am not sure if it applies to this case but I read about others.

Bernie O'Hare said...

Pennsylvania's campaign finance laws are undoubtedly the weakest in the nation. Not only is there no limit on the amount of money a developer or local government contractor can donate, but the laws are so vague and poorly worded that even elections officials themselves are confused by them. And the penalty for violation is always a joke.

Anonymous said...

Again, Obama's sheep have "changed" their opinions regarding transparency. Barry's money is muddier than the Chicago cesspool that belched him forth. But he's a hero here, while Pawlowski gets a full body cavity from another phony Barry worshiper. I'm gonna puke from all this change.

Bernie O'Hare said...

I disagree.

First, I voted for Obama, but it was a very close call for me. I am no Obamaphile and have written posts that ridicule those who worship him.

Second, I do believe in transparency. Collected a large number of very small sums, as Obama did, is no indication that his money is muddy. It's instead an indication that he's quite popular and that was borne out by the elecxtions returns. I'd suggest you look at them to answer your question about his money.

Third, Pawlowski filed a campaign finance report that actually lies. he claims to have no contributions when the undisputed facts show something else. If you could demonstrate that Obama file a signed and notarized report that actively misled voters, I'd be with you. You can't. I'm not.

Fourth, the subject here is Pawlowski, not Obama. We can do something about bad local officials. It's a little harder to do something on a federal level.

Anonymous said...


I know you hate Ed and that is ok and you right as an American. But lets be fair the list of Pawlowski donors is no different than Cunninghams and you love him. So pick on Ed if you want but all politicians with long term ambitions play pay to play and until you change election law and have publicly funded elections this will continue to happen. Pick on Pawlowski ok fine, but pick on your buddy too. The list is longer and would better prove your view.

No Free Passes Please!! But after all you are Bernie O'hare I don't expect you to be itellectually honest.

Bernie O'Hare said...

1) Cunningham is running for governor and needs millions to be a viable candidate. People running for statewide office should not be looked at the same way a local pol is examined.

2) Cunningham has never filed a sham campaign finance report. He has always been accessible and is an advocate of transparency. Pawlowski engages in personal attacks, is inaccessible, and files reports that actually lie to the people.

3) I have never seen a pol, and I include Reibman in this category, use pay to play on the same level it exists in Pawlowski.

4) Cunningham actually tries to help people, especially those without means. Pawlowski throws them to the wolves. While kissing Fegley's ass or sucking up to Jack Bradt, King Ed simultaneously sends letters to 23 low-icome residents of A-town, telling them housing inspectors are coming and they better open their doors or he'll get a search warrant. Yeah, he's a real nice guy. Really cares about the people, at least those who pad his campaigns.

Anonymous said...

Would that be the same Jack Bradt Stoffa sucks up to?

Anonymous said...

Bernie....I quote you here..

"Collected a large number of very small sums, as Obama did, is no indication that his money is muddy. It's instead an indication that he's quite popular and that was borne out by the elecxtions returns. I'd suggest you look at them to answer your question about his money."

I respectfully call your attention to the obcvious fraudulent contributions, many made from the same pre-paid credit card, with such obviously false names as to make a mockery of the system, and to demonstrate the ridiculous ease with which campaign finance laws are violated on the national level. There are too many examples to list them here, and I am fairly sure that an Obama DOJ will not even look into them.

Your support for Obama in tyhe election is, of course, your right. And I enjoy your column ("blog") very much. Just please be honest and admit that "The One," whose background is the cesspool that is Chicago politics, has apparently engaged in the same kind of raud as Pawloski.

And the evidence shown by the elections can be interpreted not as his "popularity." Rather, it demonstrates, once again, that races can be bought. $668 million (private, some fraudulent and illegal contributions) to $80 million of public monies (keeping a promise BOTH candidates made says it all.

Thanks for reading.

Anonymous said...


Way to be. Bernie doesn't care. He's in the boat with the rest of Oprah's fans. Perhaps its typical paternal racism fueled by white guilt.

Obama and his money are politically filthy, but there will be no serious investigation. Credit card fraud using millions of small transactions on jacked cards or untraceable prepaids is easy to perpetrate and widespread. Just ask any First Star Bank debit card holder who was victimized this month.

Bernie O'Hare said...

Ron in A-town,

If what you are saying is true, then Obama has engaged in the same kind of dirty politics we see from King Ed. I'm certainly no Obamafile and will agree with you if this is conducted on a wide scale. My understanding is that most of this "untraceable" money is just small donations. I have no doubt there is some fraud. It is hard to mount a major campaign without escaping some of that. But I will certainly research the questions you raise.

Anonymous said...

Bernie...thank you. Here is one example of someone who did what has gone on, on a grand scale, to fund Obama's campaign. Just brief research will you the millions donated via untraceable "gift cards," all bought with the same credit card. And the parade of obviously fake names....

This is all easily investigated, with search warrants, court orders, et cetera...but the next DOJ will not pursue it. On that I'd bet my pension.

"We noted here and elsewhere the astonishing degree of fraud that has fueled Barack Obama's record fundraising. The ultimate instance of Obama-fraud was achieved by a reader of The Corner:

So I went to the Obama website this afternoon and clicked on the "Donate" button.

I used my real MasterCard number (but was not asked for the 3 digit security code).

Used the following information and it was accepted...

First name: Fake
Last Name: Donor
Address: 1 Dollar To Prove A Point
City: Fraudulent
State: AL
Zip / Post: 33333
Email Address: allmyinfoismadeup@mediabias.com
Phone Number: 2125551212
Employer: Mainstream Media
Occupation: Being in the Tank

And incredibly, my $5 donation was ACCEPTED!!!

I then went to the McCain site and used the exact same information (and WAS asked for the 3 digit security code for my MasterCard). There, my contribution was rejected with the following message: "Your transaction was not approved for the following reason(s): Invalid data", and then: "We have found errors in the information that you have submitted. Please review the information below and try again."

I have screen shots and printouts of all of this as well.

Please tell me what I can do with this information? Is this a violation of FEC law by the Obama Campaign? How do we publicize this???

Everyone knows that Barack Obama has created the biggest money-machine of any politician in American history. But it is becoming increasingly evident that Obama's money-machine is largely fraudulent and therefore criminal. One can imagine a world in which newspaper reporters think it's a serious matter when a Presidential candidate tries to buy an election with illegal and fraudulent contributions. That, of course, is not the world that we live in."

Anonymous said...

Good thing we have a watchdog like Bernie O'Hare. I hope you'll keep Cunningham honest too. He's already raising money to run for governor and those numbers will be much highr.