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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.)

Our Stuff.

After spending weeks railing against the Pennsylvania Senate’s top Republican and the chamber’s GOP leadership, Sen. Doug Mastriano, R-Franklinhas been barred from attending private meetings of his own partyMarley Parish and Stephen Caruso report.

Capital-Star Correspondent Lauren Manelius explains how the funding travails of Lancaster County’s EMS service reflects the bigger fiscal challenges facing EMS services statewide.

Since the Pennsylvania Turnpike converted to all-electronic tolling in June 2020, nearly $105 million in fees went uncollected. On Wednesday, the 14-member Senate Transportation Committee launched an inquiry to find out why, and to evaluate ways to avoid revenue “leakage” — unpaid tolls, Marley Parish also reports.

The Pennsylvania Department of Health confirmed 4,394 new cases of COVID-19 on Wednesday, bringing the statewide total to more than 1.39 million since the start of the pandemic. Hospitalizations due to the virus also continued to climb, with 2,518 people hospitalized on Wednesday, I report.

In a briefing with reporters Wednesday, the secretaries of several state agencies shared the 2021 Pennsylvania Climate Action Plan and called for statewide action to combat the effects of climate change, Cassie Miller reports.

In a city torn by violence, Black Philadelphians are buying guns to respond to crime and racism, our partners at the Philadelphia Tribune report.

On our Commentary Page this morning: Perry Co.’s DA could put a homeless man in jail for as long as seven years over a Mountain Dew. Frequent contributor Rory Fleming muses on the justice of such a result. And it’s fall, which means there are more deer on the road — especially in Pennsylvania. Here’s how to reduce your chances of a mishap.

En la Estrella-Capital: La reforma migratoria fue bloqueada del proyecto de reconciliación en el Congreso, pero los Demócratas prometen intentarlo de nuevo. Y los Latinos de la Bahía de Chesapeake apoyan abrumadoramente el establecimiento de un area recreativa nacional.

U.S. Sen. Pat Toomey, R-Pa., speaks during the first post-pandemic meeting of the Pennsylvania Press Club on Monday 6/28/21 (Capital-Star photo by John L. Micek)

Elsewhere.

The Inquirer runs down all the candidates vying to replace U.S. Sen. Pat Toomey, R-Pa., in one of the most closely watched U.S. Senate races in the country.

Officials in Allegheny County say they’ll be ready for COVID-19 boosters, the Post-Gazette reports.

City & State Pa. takes a look at how raising the minimum wage would both help and hurt workers.

It’s deja vu all over again as the Legislature returns to fall sessionPennLive’s John Baer opines (subscriber-only).

Lehigh Valley residents are bracing for flash flooding and possible tornadoes as heavy storms blow through the region today, the Morning Call reports.

Philadelphia school officials are implementing less stringent pandemic shutdown requirements this fallWHYY-FM reports.

So how much do energy jobs really pay? StateImpact Pennsylvania dives into the data.

Stateline.org explains how the vigilante enforcement of Texas’ appalling abortion law could spread to include other state laws as well.

And here’s what President Joe Biden needs to tell fractious Democrats as they spar over infrastructure and the $3.5 trillion reconciliation bill, NYMag’s Intelligencer says.

Here’s your #Pennsylvania Instagram of the Day:

 

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

What Goes On (Nakedly Political Edition)
8 am.: Breakfast for House Speaker Bryan Cutler
12 p.m.: Reception for Rep. Torren Ecker
5:30 p.m.: Reception for Republican activist Christine Torretti
5:30 p.m.: Reception for Rep. Mike Schlossberg.
Ride the circuit, and give at the max, and you’re out a truly ridiculous $17,000 today.

WolfWatch 
Gov. Tom Wolf heads to Philadelphia today for a 10 a.m. news conference touting a violence intervention grant program that’s available to communities statewide.

You Say It’s Your Birthday Dept 
Best wishes go out to PennLive photo czar Joe Hermitt, who celebrates today. Congratulations and enjoy the day, sir.

Heavy Rotation
As improbable as it seems, this week marks 10 years since alt.rock legends R.E.M. decided to call it a career. The band put together a whole playlist to mark the occasion. I’ll leave it to you to debate what songs should have been included, and which should have been left out. I have all the thoughts.


Thursday’s Gratuitous Soccer Link
West Ham United notched a 1-0 win on Wednesday, knocking Manchester United out of this season’s Carabao Cup competition, the Guardian reports. The victory marked the first win in nine attempts by Hammers’ manager David Moyes, who once managed the Red Devils.

And now you’re up to date.

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John L. Micek
John L. Micek

A 3-decade veteran of the news business, John L. Micek is the Pennsylvania Capital-Star's Editor-in-Chief. An award-winning political reporter, Micek’s career has taken him from small town meetings and Chicago City Hall to Congress and the Pennsylvania Capitol. His weekly column on U.S. politics is syndicated to 800 newspapers nationwide by Cagle Syndicate. He also contributes commentary and analysis to broadcast outlets in the U.S., Canada and the U.K. Micek’s first novel, “Ordinary Angels,” was released in 2019 by Sunbury Press.

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