Report flags corporate donors to GOP lawmakers tied to Pa. election probe | Thursday Morning Coffee

‘Why haven’t the corporations that have supported these anti-democratic representatives in the past condemned their rhetoric?’ an activist group asks

September 23, 2021 7:24 am

Then-state Rep. Cris Dush, R-Jefferson. Dush now chairs the Senate Intergovernmental Operations Committee, which is probing the 2020 election (Capital-Star file)

Good Thursday Morning, Fellow Seekers.
Three Pennsylvania Republican lawmakers who traveled to Arizona to tour a sham investigation of the 2020 election results have been the beneficiaries of tens of thousands of dollars in corporate and lobbying donations, even as at least one of them has pushed baseless claims of fraud related to President Joe Biden’s victory in the Keystone State.

House Judiciary Committee Chairman Rob Kauffman, and Sen. Doug Mastriano, both of Franklin County, respectively received $27,150 and $48,350 in donations from trade groups and corporate interests over the length of their legislative careers, according to an analysis by the nonpartisan advocacy group Accountable.US, that was exclusively shared with the Capital-Star.

Sen. Cris Dush, R-Jefferson, the newly minted chairman of the Senate Intergovernmental Operations Committee, which is currently seeking the personal information of millions of Pennsylvania voters in its probe of election results, accepted $2,750 in donations from those interests during a legislative career that has spanned both the House and Senate, the advocacy group’s analysis shows.

The organization has called on the trio’s corporate backers to explain whether they continue to support the lawmakers as the state Senate pursues as similar investigation.

In a statement, Accountable.US’s president, Kyle Herrig, accused all three lawmakers of being “willing to diminish our democracy just to score political points with the twice-impeached former president by keeping the Big Lie alive.

“They would rather fan the flames of insurrection by spreading unhinged conspiracy theories than accept the will of the people,” he continued.

KauffmanMastriano, and Dush all traveled to Maricopa County, Ariz. in June to meet with Arizona state lawmakers and to tour the facility where the investigation was being conducted, the Capital-Star’s Marley Parish and Stephen Caruso reported at the time.

Dush, who has questioned the election results, has insisted that his panel’s probe is not aimed at returning former President Donald Trump to office, but is rather intended to “potentially take future legislative action,” on the commonwealth’s election laws.

WASHINGTON, DC – JANUARY 06: A pro-Trump mob breaks into the U.S. Capitol on January 06, 2021 in Washington, DC. Congress held a joint session today to ratify President-elect Joe Biden’s 306-232 Electoral College win over President Donald Trump. A group of Republican senators said they would reject the Electoral College votes of several states unless Congress appointed a commission to audit the election results. (Photo by Win McNamee/Getty Images)

Donations to Kauffman, who chairs one of the House’s most powerful committees, show a standard range of support from corporate interests and advocacy groups across his time in Harrisburg.

The Pennsylvania Chamber of Business & Industry, for instance, has a long track record of supporting GOP lawmakers. Its president and CEO, Gene Barr, is one of the state’s most prominent Republican activists.

The chamber, through its PAC, gave Kauffman a total of $9,075 in donations, the analysis showed, an amount that Barr described to the Capital-Star as paltry over the GOP lawmaker’s two decades in Harrisburg, compared to the donations other interest groups, such as organized labor, shower on lawmakers.

Speaking to the Philadelphia Inquirer on Jan. 7, the day after pro-Trump extremists sacked the U.S. Capitol, Barr, a self-described history buff, said he’d been “appalled” to see Confederate flags wielded by rioters inside the Capitol, “which they never reached in the Civil War.”

Joe Biden will be the president. Kamala Harris will be the vice president,” Barr told the newspaper at the time, adding that, “when anyone asks if the election was ‘stolen’, I say, ‘The Democrats would have to be really bad thieves, given the success Republicans had taking two statewide offices from them, and keeping the state House and Senate, and not losing any congressional races.

State Sen. Doug Mastriano, R-Franklin (R) and former state Rep. Rick Saccone at the U.S. Capitol on 1/6/21 (Facebook photo)

Mastriano, who was photographed on the Capitol grounds on Jan. 6, but who has denied participating, spent thousands of dollars in campaign money to bus supporters to Washington D.C., WHYY-FM in Philadelphia reported in January. Crowd-sourced video also apparently showed Mastriano closer to the U.S. Capitol than he originally said he was, the station further reported in May.

Mastriano, who has repeatedly sought to cast doubt on the election results, has trumpeted what he says are his close ties to Trump. Last November, he hosted a bizarre hearing in Gettysburg, funded by taxpayers, that sought to cast further doubt on the results.

The analysis, which also catalogues Mastriano’s public comments about the COVID-19 pandemic, his very public opposition to the Democratic Wolf administration’s management policies, and alleged ties to Christian nationalist movements, shows a similar range of donations by corporate political action committees across his brief legislative career, including the Pennsylvania Bankers Association ($2,000), rail titan Norfolk Southern ($1,000), and First Energy Corp ($1,000). 

Dush, who ascended to the Senate after last year’s retirement of former Senate President Pro Tempore Joe Scarnati, a fellow Jefferson County Republican, has a far slimmer portfolio of corporate donations, the analysis shows. While in the House, Dush was one of about two-dozen Republicans who opposed certification of the state’s election results.

“It is clear that no amount of evidence that the election was fair will satisfy those who are acting in bad faith,” Accountable.US’s Herrig said. “The question is: why haven’t the corporations that have supported these anti-democratic representatives in the past condemned their rhetoric?”

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

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Here’s your #Pennsylvania Instagram of the Day:


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10 a.m., Market St., Harrisburg: Independent Regulatory Review Commission

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8 am.: Breakfast for House Speaker Bryan Cutler
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5:30 p.m.: Reception for Republican activist Christine Torretti
5:30 p.m.: Reception for Rep. Mike Schlossberg.
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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.