Ahead of rumored run for Congress, DePasquale drops campaign cash on Facebook ads

Auditor General Eugene DePasquale. (Gov. Tom Wolf/Flickr)

Deep in the middle of his second and final term, Pennsylvania Auditor General Eugene DePasquale’s future is a frequent topic of speculation among political observers, who believe the York County Democrat is well positioned to take advantage of a buffet of ballot alternatives  — from governor to senator to congressman — over the next few years.

This spring, as rumors of a future run pick up, DePasquale dipped into his campaign coffers, spending slightly less than $24,000 from his state-level campaign account on Facebook ads touting his record, according to Facebook data.

DePasquale has been frequently mentioned as possible challenger to a fellow York countian, U.S. Rep. Scott Perry, R-10th District. In March, the National Journal, a publication that covers Washington politics, cited three anonymous sources who said DePasquale was “strongly considering” a run for the seat. A source this month told PennLive the auditor is “seriously leaning” toward making a bid for Congress.

Some of the Facebook ads specifically targeted the Harrisburg area, a key portion of the sprawling 10th District.

Bud Jackson, a Virginia-based political consultant working for DePasquale, said in an email that the Democrat has made no decision on his next political move, and that having an active political committee that regularly communicates with voters is a common practice.

He added that it is also common for a state office holder to run for another state position utilizing the same committee.

“Eugene DePasquale has been a trailblazer for transparency and accountability in Pennsylvania,” Jackson said. “If he runs for any office, he will continue to be transparent and accountable.”

DePasquale’s state-level campaign committee, DePasquale for Pennsylvania, spent $23,997 on the ads since April, including $2,684 in the last week. Five buys alone were worth more than $1,000, and two cost between $5,000 and $10,000 each.

A review of DePasquale’s campaign finance records since his 2016 reelection show no Facebook advertising expenses.

The committee’s most recent report, filed with the the Department of State in December 2018, shows $124,000 in the bank. In all of 2018, the committee took in $130,000 and spent $43,000 on consulting fees as well as donations to state House candidates.

The ad library for DePasquale’s personal campaign Facebook page lists 27 ad buys since April 2. They play up his advocacy on prescription drug pricing and success in cutting down on unanswered child abuse hotline calls.

Some of the ads also link to a “policy survey,” which first leads to landing page collecting contact information.

DePasquale, a former Democratic state House member first elected as auditor general in 2012, has been open about a planned future run for office. But he hasn’t formally announced his candidacy for any position.

If DePasquale does opt for a congressional bid, he’d have to set up a federal campaign committee. Contributors can make unlimited donations to Pennsylvania campaign accounts, but donations to federal races are limited.

According to a Pennsylvania Department of State FAQ sheet, a candidate may use leftover funds “to influence the outcome of future elections generally.”

At least one other candidate has already announced a run for the Democratic nomination in the 10th — Tom Brier, a 27-year-old lawyer, author, and Hershey native.

DePasquale’s ad buys drew the ire of the state Republican Party, which has recently accused DePasquale of using his frequent official press conferences for personal gain.

“Eugene DePasquale is a professional political ladder-climber and these repeated and significant digital ad buys are another means by which he is using his taxpayer-funded office to boost his personal political profile while not being transparent with Pennsylvanians about his true intentions and motivations,” Pennsylvania Republican Party spokesman Jason Gottesman said in an emailed statement.

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