GOP U.S. Senate hopeful Parnell hit with FEC complaint over book sales | Friday Morning Coffee

Pa. Democrats allege Sean Parnell profited from the sales of his books his campaign bought from his publisher and then gave away to supporters

October 29, 2021 7:10 am

(YouTube Screen Capture via Pittsburgh City Paper)

Good Friday Morning, Fellow Seekers.

Pennsylvania Democrats have asked the Federal Election Commission to look into whether GOP U.S. Senate candidate Sean Parnell improperly profited from the purchase of his best-selling books his campaign purchased and then gave away to supporters and promoted on its social media channels.

A filing reviewed by the Capital-Star claims that Parnell, the author of five thrillers, improperly received royalty payments from the purchase of $2,500 in books, or “donor mementos’ his campaign purchased from his publisher. Under campaign finance law, any royalties derived from those sales must be donated to charity.

The filing alleges that there “is no indication that HarperCollins Publishers [Parnell’s publisher] donated Mr. Parnell’s royalties from the Donor Memento purchases to a charitable organization that is not associated with Mr. Parnell or excluded such sales from the calculation of royalties that likely accrued to Mr. Parnell.”

“Accordingly, the evidence strongly suggests that Mr. Parnell violated the Act’s prohibition on personal use by receiving royalties on his Committee’s book purchases—a conversion of campaign funds into personal use,” the filing asserts.

The complaint, filed by state Democratic Party Executive Director Jason Henry, names Parnell, individually, and his campaign, as respondents.

It asks federal regulators to “immediately investigate these violations and that Respondents be enjoined from further violations and be fined the maximum amount permitted by law.”

In a statement, Jack Doyle, a spokesman for Pennsylvania Democrats, said the FEC needs to investigate what he characterized as Parnell’s “apparent misuse of campaign resources for his own gain.”

(Screen Capture)

The complaint also charges that Parnell’s campaign violated prohibitions against using campaign assets to promote the books in a number of social media posts.

“Respondents have published at least twenty-five promotional posts on social media, the majority of which featured large photos of his book(s),” the complaint alleges. “These twenty-five posts are clearly in excess of the two sentences of promotional material that the Commission has considered de minimis.”

That promotional blitz also “[appears] to have entailed the use of substantial campaign staff time and campaign resources. For instance, some of the posts include custom-designed countdown graphics to his latest book’s release date … The Committee also touted at least one organized giveaway contest in which 100 copies of a Parnell book were given to winning contestants,” the complaint alleges.

Parnell, a veteran, a onetime congressional candidate, and frequent Fox News guest, is one of the large pack of Republican hopefuls looking to succeed retiring U.S. Sen. Pat Toomey, R-Pa., in 2022. Alone among the candidates, he’s nabbed the endorsement of former President Donald Trump. 

In a statement, Parnell’s spokesman, Ian Prior, said the campaign had not “received anything from FEC as it relates to a complaint.

“But if the Pennsylvania Democratic Party wants to learn about patriotic duty and love of country, we will happily send them a copy of Sean Parnell’s Outlaw Platoon,” Prior said, referring to one of the books at issue in the complaint.

Pennsylvania State Capitol Building. (Capital-Star photo by Cassie Miller.)

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John L. Micek

A three-decade veteran of the news business, John L. Micek is the Pennsylvania Capital-Star's former Editor-in-Chief.