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Nazareth, Pa., United States

Wednesday, October 20, 2010

Who Wanted to Dump Karen Beyer?

In her freshman year, she passed a major piece of legislation, a measure to protect consumers from price gouging after natural disasters. Few legislators can make that claim. But State Rep. Karen Beyer was still defeated in this Spring's Republican primary by Justin Simmons. Without question, he ran a good race. But there were dark forces at work in the form of independent expenditures by two different groups. Amazingly, we have no idea who was funding them. Let me tell you the story.

If you've never talked to Karen, do yourself a favor and watch her stirring farewell address from the House floor. She spoke straight from the heart, and she'll be a tough act to follow. She made it pretty clear that she perceived that her first duty was to the constituents in her district. But what she failed to mention is that she has resisted pressure from a few major water interests to agree to the sale of a large tract of open space in her district. And out of the blue, two groups - Citizens' Alliance of Pa. and Young Conservatives of Pa. - started working against her. This could be a coincidence, or it could be something more nefarious.

Citizens' Alliance of Pennsylvania is run by Pat Toomey's former COS, Joe Sterns. He also chairs the Schuylkill County GOP. For reasons that elude me, his group actively worked against Beyer. Two negative mailers wee sent to Republicans in her district, at a cost of about $7,000 a pop. In addition, about $15,000 worth of radio ads were broadcast on WAEB. Finally, two robo calls, whose cost is $1,400, were financed by Citizens.

Citizens Alliance is listed as a nonprofit, but also has a registered PAC that reports a $400 post-primary contribution to Simmons. But there is no accounting for the two mailers, to robo-calls, and $15,000 worth of radio ads.

Young Conservatives of Pa is another outfit that worked against Beyer, sending out two attack mailers. Like Citizens Alliance, it's listed in state corporation records as a nonprofit. Like Citizens Alliance, there is also a PAC called Young Conservatives of Pennsylvania Political Action. The last report filed by the PAC was in 2008. Like Citizens Alliance, there is no accounting for the smear campaign.

Why are these outfits flying under the radar? Why the hell would the Schuylkill County GOP chair inject himself in a LV Republican primary? Why would these outfits, based in Harrisburg, want to get rid of Beyer? Is it just because she wasn't pure enough, or were some business interests making an investment?

What about Simmons? Was he acting in concert with these outfits? He told me he was very happy when he got their mailers, especially since his campaign consisted of three people. But he had no knowledge of their intentions and nothing was coordinated.

Beyer told me, "The problem with these groups is I can't see who gave them the money?" Exactly. To this day, she has no idea who wanted her out.

The state BCEL has opened up an investigation. In a letter to Beyer, Sherry Messinger states, "At this time, this matter is under investigation, we will notify you of the final disposition of your inquiry."