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Nazareth, Pa., United States

Thursday, January 23, 2014

Campaign Finance Scofflaw Proposed For Elections Comm'n

Under Northampton County's Home Rule Charter, the Executive selects Elections Commission members from a pool of names submitted by party chairs. They are then confirmed by County Council. That's what happened at yesterday's Personnel Committee. Council reviewed  five names that Executive John Brown submitted for consideration, based upon what he received from the party chairs. Incredibly, one of the persons nominated, Democrat George Treisner, is the very man who just a few short months ago, attempted to deprive voters of their right to see who was funding one of the campaign. He stated that candidate had filed with the state, something the state itself denied. The last place he belongs is on a body dealing with our most fundamental right.

As most of my readers know, I like to review pre-election campaign finance reports. That's how we find out what special interests are backing  a candidate. But last November, I simply was unable to find one for Tom O'Donnell, one of the Democratic County Council candidates. 

I filed a written complaint, and received this response from the elections office:
In response to this matter I just spoke to Tom O’Donnell. I informed him that the Elections Office has received a complaint in writing in regards to him not following finance laws and spending over $250.00 Dollars on his campaign. He stated that his treasure George Treisner has filed all the appropriate paper work to the state. I then informed him that he is not a state candidate therefore it should not be filed with the state; he is a local candidate who must file on a local level. I also told him that he is going to have to file the finance reports to our office and also if he has a committee he must legally form that committee by filling out the Political Committee Registration Statement. He asked me to mail the papers to him and said that George Treisner is out of town and when he comes back, this will be taken care of.
Treisner, his treasurer, was also at that time the Elections Commission Chair. Out of town or not, I decided to track him down. When I got to him, Treisner also told me that he had filed O'Donnell's paperwork with the state.

I told Treisner I couldn't find it. In fact, there was no record he had even formed a committee. 

"Keep looking," Treisner told me, and hung up.

I did. I called the state, and asked them to look. There was no committee registered under O'Donnell's name. There was no online report. In fact, I was told that it would be impossible for O'Donnell to have filed online because he would need a state identification number, and they only would give that to him if he were a state candidate.

Treisner, Chairman of the Elections Commission, deprived voters of their right to see who was funding O'Donnell's campaign. It appears to me that he was being dishonest.

The next day, O'Donnell finally filed a report and paid a $100 fine for being late. Though he had campaign signs that say they were paid for by "Citizens to Elect Tom O'Donnell," he formed no committee and filed individually. Every single one of his campaign signs had the wrong disclaimer.

Since he filed individually, there was no campaign treasurer. That appears to be yet another lie.

O'Donnell was ultimately defeated at the polls. But the person who helped him evade campaign finance laws wants to be re-appointed to the Elections Commission. 

This is simply wrong. 

But both a party boss and the Executive have gone along with this utter nonsense.

"How on earth can you appoint someone to the Elections Commission who doesn't even know how to follow campaign finance laws?" I asked Council yesterday. "To me, that's ridiculous."

Joe Welsh, a prominent Easton Democrat, defended Treisner, claiming this little slip up in no way impugns his "great integrity." I think it does. 

I also think he's a sexist, having once referred to a Democratic Vice Chair as a "bitch." What's more, even if he has great integrity as Joe insists, a man who screws up campaign finance reports and actually confuses county and state offices, deserves no spot on an elections commission.

"If you don't know the election laws, maybe you shouldn't be on the committee," mused Personnel Chair Ken Kraft, who himself once chaired the Elections Commission and believes it improper for a commission member to be involved in partisan races.

Council actually listened to me and tabled Treisner's nomination so they could investigate my claims.

I left the meeting in shock.

Actually, I had to leave because my car had broken down and I was hitching a ride with my brother. But don't fret. I caught the rest of the meeting online.


Kevin Cerino said...

Any chance that the DA will investigate these shenanigans?

Anonymous said...

Kevin... We all make mistakes. Tom O' Donnell who Bernie does not like was helped by Mr. Triesner. He basically stepped in. It's hard to get people to accept this responsibility. Bernie did not say a word about Joan Rosenthal who has circulated petitions, been involved in campaigns and treasurer for a few campaigns.

This is just an attack on his the person he hates today!

Anonymous said...

To be fair, it turns out that the other four registered Democrats on the list either lived out of state or had died several years ago.

Who'd have thought it? :)

Bernie O'Hare said...

First of all, when Stoffa nominated Rosenthal four years ago, I was opposed and wrote about it here. Second, I do not believe an elections commissioner should be a part of any races, and would be more than willing to vote against her for that reason . I made that clear to Kraft yesterday. Third, Treisner did more than participate in an election. He flouted the campaign finance laws that his body enforces. He is an embarrassment to anyone who believes in good government.

Kevin Cerino said...

If he has so obviously flouted the law, why hasn't the DA charged him with violating the law? Was Morganelli too busy trying to line up support for his aborted LG bid?

Bernie O'Hare said...

Kevin, not every violation of campaign finance laws results in a criminal prosecution. There are few instances in which even egregious violations result in criminal sanctions. DAs do not exist to be used as pawns between the warring factions of a political race. In this case, I made no complaint and did not pursue the matter once O'Donnell filed his reports, even though he did so incorrectly. Your snide attempt to castigate our DA is exactly why prosecutors avoid these matters . Take your cheap shots somewhere else.

Kevin Cerino said...


I'm serious that I think that these cases need to be prosecuted. What incentive do campaigns have to abide by the law if the only thing they have to worry about is a slap on the wrist?

If the events transpired as you have described them, it would appear that Treisner KNEW that he was violating the law. Shouldn't those who knowingly violate campaign laws be prosecuted?

Bernie O'Hare said...

Kevin you used my post, in which I was trying to make a point, to take a cheap shot. The governor reference proves it. Now give it a rest.