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Wednesday, October 28, 2009

Cunningham Camp Slams Dean Browning's Victory PAC

For the past two days, Lehigh County Executive Don Cunningham has been taking it on the chin for using some of his very sizable campaign warchest to finance the campaign of Commissioner candidates Hillary Kwiatek and Jeanne McNeill. According to a news release from Cunningham campaign manager Dan Kelly, Republicans are actually outspending Democrats to keep control of the Lehigh Valley's largest legislative body. I'll let Dan speak for himself.

In an interesting attempt to “have their cake and eat it too,” Lehigh County Republican Commissioner Dean Browning and Party Chairman Bill Platt, Jr., conveniently forgot to mention their orchestrated effort to fund Republican Commissioner candidates while providing erroneous information about County Executive Don Cunningham and the State Democratic Party.

In fact, their effort to support two Commissioner candidates currently outstrips the current support of the State Democratic Committee’s in-kind contributions to Lehigh County Commissioner candidates -- which to date is a total of $34,861.23.

In addition, there are multiple discrepancies between what the Republican Party and its Victory Fund report as expenditures and the reporting of its two chosen candidates: commissioner candidates Glenn Eckhart and Tom Creighton.

Here are the facts:

§ Republicans, funded in large part by Commissioner Dean Browning, his family members and co-workers at New World Aviation, along with Congressman Charlie Dent, have raised $54, 495 and have reported spending more than $36,000 on Lehigh County Commissioner races this year.

§ The support has come from two groups, The Lehigh County Republican Committee and the Victory PAC, which have delivered all the advertising to date for Commissioner candidates Glenn Eckhart and Tom Creighton.

§ Eckhart and Creighton don’t report receiving as much from either Republican group as the groups report spending on Eckhart and Creighton. And, let’s remember, these are so-called fiscal conservatives who want to manage our money.

Here are the numbers (from their filings):

A. Lehigh County Republican Committee - Summary

§ Total Raised- $30,465.30

§ Total Expenditures- $18,043.91

§ Cash on Hand- $12,421.39

Key Contributions

$8,500- Charlie Dent
$200- Lawrence Hilliard
$500- Samuel Sexton
$2,000- Charles Snelling
$5,000- Roland Sigal
$500- John Lovett
$5,000- Robert Hammel
$7,500- PA Future Fund *(see mission statement below)

B. Victory PAC

§ Total Contributions: $24,030.77

§ Total Expenditures: $18,696.37

§ Cash on Hand: $5,334.40

PAC Officers

§ Dean Browning, chief financial officer of New World Aviation, is chairman of the Victory PAC

§ Peter J Csongradi, controller of New World Aviation, is treasurer of the Victory PAC

Key Contributors

$1,000- Dent for Congress
$5,000-Charles Browning, relative of Dean Browning
$5,000- Randolph Croschwartz, president of New World Aviation
$2,500- Peter Csongradi, controller of New World Aviation
$250-Air Products
$250-Friends of Community Colleges
$250- William Young
$5,000- PA Future Fund *(see mission statement below)
$1,000-Dexter Baker
$500- Sam Saxton
$1,000- William Grube
$1,000- John Lovett
$1,000- Robert Johnson

C. Dean Browning’s PAC and Personal Contributions

Dean Browning’s campaign committee has contributed $9,310 to four of the Republican commissioner candidates in in-kind services, most of which no one says what it is on their reports.

Browning gave an equal – and specific -- $2,327.50 to Eckhart, Creighton, Bob Smith and Mike Welsh.

Unfortunately, for Board Chairman Republican Percy Dougherty, Browning only skipped him with his benevolence

And here is the Problem:

§ Creative accounting has helped these groups hide activity, particularly regarding direct mail.

§ When you compare a low average for mail costs (design, consulting, production) with the amount of postage paid, over 40,000 pieces of mail are unaccounted for.

§ Negative mail pieces have been paid by the Lehigh County Republican party, but this information is not disclosed on those reports.

§ Creighton and Eckhart report receiving some in-kind support from the Victory PAC but don’t disclose what it is for.

Despite all of this, Commissioner Browning and Republican Party Chairman Bill Platt, Jr, decided to launch a media campaign regarding County Executive Don Cunningham’s contribution to the State Democratic Committee, which has been regularly misrepresented as a “$70,000 contribution” to Commissioner candidates.

While we see nothing wrong with Republicans helping Republicans and Democrats helping Democrats, we do think the Republican hypocrisy and lack of accurate reporting is evidence of a shady and sloppy approach that doesn’t belie the fiscal responsibility mantra they would like us to believe.

And, in the end, we have seen the uncovering of Commissioner Dean Browning as the spearhead and leader of a GOP coordinated campaign targeting Lehigh County Commissioner Districts 1 and 5.

There is no doubt that he is spending more time lately running the day to day fundraising and financial operations of this coordinated campaign than he is watching the books of New World Aviation. One has to wonder why?

* Mission Statement of the PA Future Fund from its website: In 2009, the Pennsylvania Future Fund is dedicated to the following objectives:
Elect a Supreme court Justice to ensure a fair redistricting plan for Pennsylvania. The court is presently divided with three Republicans and three Democrats; so a fourth Republican will tip the balance.
Invest funds in local and county organizations to rebuild the Republican Party at the grassroots level. We have a plan to improve the use of political technology that we wish to make available statewide.
Recruiting quality pro-growth candidates for Congress, State Senate and State House for the 2010 cycle.

Asked for comment, Dean Browning tells me he'll have a more complete answer today, but wanted you to know "they are mixing apples and oranges and then making erroneous comparisons."

"The money from Lehigh County Victory PAC spent for County Commissioner candidates went to 5 different candidates not just Eckhart and Creighton.

"Not all the money spent by Lehigh County Victory PAC was for the commissioner candidates. Some was for the PAC itself and a significant portion was for GOTV efforts to benefit all Republicans in Lehigh County.

"I can say that any money spent by the PAC before the Oct. 19 cutoff that to the direct benefit of a candidate was reported to them and included on their campaign finance report."


Anonymous said...

hm... sounds like their outrage comes back to bite them. what is it with conservative activist accountants and shady political dealings?

Anonymous said...

Sounds like anon 7;12 typed the post from the Cunningham Campaign office.

Scott Armstrong

Anonymous said...

nope, scott. I'm just happy enough to point out when your boys are just as guilty of deceiving voters as the other side's boys. the truth is a bitch, brother.

Anonymous said...

Right...of course.

Scott Armstrong

Anonymous said...

Bernie, I would be a strong advocate for requiring all commenters on political matters be required to sign their names to any comment for posting.
Bob Romanchecck

Anonymous said...

Scott, Bob... complain all you want. Truth is that most people don't trust either party. One day you are trashing the opposition for something that you did the day before.

It's amazing the double-standards that exist in political parties. But hey, I'm not a party leader, former party leader or former paid consultant for a political party.

Perhaps you can answer this question directly: are you going to directly call out the Republican candidates that benefited from Browning's creative accounting practices? Go ahead and tell them to file amendments to their financial reports now that they have been caught being untruthful to voters in Lehigh County. And while we are at it, perhaps The Banker will assert that they only filed the amendments after they got caught misleading. Show that you have the voters' interest at heart, gentlemen.

You don't need to have a name attached to your comments to speak the truth. Sometimes, the truth only need to speak for itself.

But seriously, Bernie, thank you for exposing this info and the info about Cunningham's contributions to other candidates. Transparency should rule and you did a huge service to Democracy. Now voters can rest assured that politicians are trying to buy elections for other politicians. Isn't Democracy grand?

Anonymous said...

Um, does Browning's aviation firm do business with any companies that use the Queen City Airport or LVIA? Do they use the airports themselves? I only ask, b/c with all the contributions that come from that company, I wonder if they expect Dean to make certain benefits that would keep the country club airport open. Given the poor performance of the airport authority, I wonder if Browning has ever helped to deflect scrutiny of the airports in such a way that would benefit his and his contributor's business?

follow the money...

Anonymous said...

New World Aviation is located right next to LVIA and appears to utilize LVIA quite a bit. I'm sure the contributors to Browning's PAC have a reasonable expectation that the airport authority, which I believe county execs appoint and councils approve, protect its interests.

Bernie, this might be something to send Mr. Angle out on. Nothing like a little pay to play to get your blood pumping on a raising morning.

Bernie O'Hare said...

I happen to know that Browning is as disturbed as Angle about management at the airport. So that's a tad unfair. In any event, I have his reply to this newsrelease an will be posting it soon.

Anonymous said...

FYI, I am not involved in any political races nor am I active with the local committee. When I was involved I never engaged in any unethical activity.

If any unethical accounting was done by any Republican I don’t doubt for a minute the local press won’t act on it. I for one have never tried to excuse such activity and wouldn’t start now. That being said I believe Dean Browning knows how to successfully and ethically navigate the treacherous waters of campaign funding and finance reporting.

The truth doesn’t need a name? Those who see the truth as just relative or what one needs it to be would agree with you. I don’t share this new low standard. Have some guts out there, do the right thing and put some credibility to your opinions.

Scott Armstrong

Anonymous said...

"If any unethical accounting was done by any Republican I don’t doubt for a minute the local press won’t act on it."

Wait, isn't that the same logic that has allowed Pawlowski to escape the scrutiny he deserves? News flash: local press aren't covering local elections. Heck, they barely mention who the candidates are until the 3rd week of October. It's truly sad how uncovered these races are. Do you really expect them to catch this one?

Since you didn't answer my question directly Scott, I'll ask it another way: do you think Don Cunningham or any of the D candidates acted inappropriately in their actions? I only ask b/c it appears the same actions were taken.

And we all know that you don't have any leadership roles now Scott. You've made that clear and it appears that's b/c Platt and Co don't want to play with you. We also know that you have been a paid consultant and if memory serves correctly it was in 2005 when Dean Browning was a candidate. So I have another question: did you take any money that Dean contributed to the county committee in 2005? It certainly calls into question your ability to offer untainted commentary on the Browning money machine.

Anonymous said...

Oh boy, am I evil! In 2005 I was a consultant for the Lehigh County Republican Committee. In that role had a variety of duties and responsibilities. Anyone who was a Republican candidate for any Lehigh County office was under my purview and received any assistance I could lend. I was, however, paid only by the committee. Did Dean contribute to the committee? I don’t know but it wouldn’t have mattered as my direction came from Bob Lovett.
I don’t know enough about campaign finance law to comment on Don Cunningham’s activity. That being said, I think it will surprise no one when I write that I don’t doubt for a minute he would bend or break any rule necessary to achieve his own goals. Don Cunningham and integrity in the same sentence would be a hard fit unless the goal was contrast.

Scott Armstrong

Anonymous said...

Oh Scott you are sooo bad.