In Pa.’s closely watched 10th CD race, Republican Perry jumps out to early fund-raising lead

House Homeland Security Oversight and Management Efficiency Subcommittee Chairman Rep. Scott Perry makes opening remarks during a hearing on "critical canine contributions to the DHS mission’" in Washington, D.C., May 18, 2017. U.S. Customs and Border Protection Photo by Glenn Fawcett

After several cycles that fervently focused on the Philadelphia suburbs, it now appears that the commonwealth’s premiere 2020 Congressional contest will occur in the capital region.

Pennsylvania’s 10th Congressional District, home to the south-central Pennsylvania cities of Harrisburg, Carlisle and York, is suddenly the race to watch.

With GOP incumbent U.S. Rep. Scott Perry taking the ignominious torch from Brian Fitzpatrick, now is the perfect time to dig into the recently released first quarter fundraising reports of Perry and his two potential Democratic opponents Eugene DePasquale and Tom Brier. 

Things got heated over the weekend, with Brier hitting DePasquale with an alleged campaign finance violation, that was based, in part, on earlier reporting by the Capital-Star’s Stephen Caruso.

According to PennLive, Brier accused DePasquale of using money donated to past runs for state office to get his congressional campaign up and running. That’s explicitly banned under federal campaign laws. DePasquale’s campaign called the charge “baseless,” PennLive reported.

A quick note: The first fundraising quarter runs from January 1st to March 31st, 2020. Most of the money spent by campaigns usually goes to staff and routine bills for office supplies, rent and taxes. With few exceptions, I’ll be concentrating on those expenditures that stand out and illustrate a bit of the campaign’s strategies.

Scott Perry

The incumbent brought in $450,270.51 over the first three months, while spending $256,673.61, leaving him with $815,525.09 cash on hand, records showed.

Among those contributions $80,250 came from political action committees (PACs). Perry’s PACs tended to come from business organizations, including some well-known corporations like Walmart ($2,000), Boeing ($1,000) and Comcast ($3,500).

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Comcast’s donation is particularly significant because, while the majority of its donations go to Republicans, the company does occasionally shell out cash to Democrats as well. For instance, Joe Biden opened up his campaign with a fundraiser at executive David Cohen’s home and CEO Brian Roberts has given $5,100 to Biden over the years.

Other major PAC contributors included the Senate Conservatives Fund ($5,000), the National Apartment Association ($5,000), Exxon Mobil ($2,500), New York Life Insurance ($1,000) and Delta Airlines ($1,000).

One noteworthy donor was the National Association for Gun Rights, one of the groups seeking to unseat the NRA’s primacy, which kicked in $1,000. 

Perry also received $2,000 each from colleagues Dan Meuser and Andy Harris as well as ex-colleague Keith Rothfus. Several PA politicos also used their PACs to pitch in, with Glenn Thomson and Mike Kelly both giving $2,500 and Pat Toomey donating $5,000. 

As for expenditures this quarter, more than half went towards direct mail with five firms collecting $131,418.14 in fees. Most of that went to Direct Support Services and Consolidated Mailing Services.

The Perry campaign made donations of $2,500 and $800 respectively to the Cumberland County Republican Committee and Cumberland County Federation of Republican Women. They also gave $225 to Capital Area Pregnancy Centers.

Finally, Perry is carrying $92,248.77 in debts to some of their fundraising consultants. 

Eugene DePasquale

Pennsylvania’s incumbent, two-term auditor general and Democratic hopeful Eugene DePasquale raised $348,598.71 and spent $160,135.89, leaving him with $656,924.40 cash on hand, according to FEC filings.

While DePasquale couldn’t surpass Perry in total fundraising, he did bring in more PAC money, the overwhelming majority of which came from labor unions and Democratic members of Congress.

For example, he got $5,000 checks from AFSCME, SEIU, and the NEA. CWA Local 13000 chipped in $4,600, while the League of Conservation Voters gave $3,000 and NARAL contributed $2,500. 

Capital-Star Q&A: PA-10 candidate Eugene DePasquale on his congressional run, budget cuts

DePasquale also received the backing of moderate Democratic groups like the New Democratic Coalition ($7,000) and the Blue Dog PAC ($2,000). About two dozen incumbent Reps and their PACs sent in cash too, including leaders like: Nancy Pelosi ($7,000), Adam Schiff ($5,000), Cheri Bustos ($2,500), Steny Hoyer ($2,000) and Debbie Wasserman-Schultz ($1,000).

The candidate chipped in $250 himself and transferred $8,675 from the DePasquale Wild Fund. There were $450 worth of refunds.

His largest expense was $28,900 to GBAO for research. $10,233.80 and $10,000 respectively went to fundraising consultants Rising Tide Interactive and Cabbage Hill Consulting. The campaign also paid Deliver Strategies LLC $4,625 for direct mail.

Tom Brier

Attorney Tom Brier, of Derry Township, Dauphin County, is hoping to upset DePasquale and capture the Democratic nomination. He raised $86,135.57, spent $144,110.17, and finished with $145,418.74 cash on hand, campaign records showed.

The major point of contrast between the two Democrats is that while DePasquale raised more PAC money than Perry, Brier received nothing from any such groups.

Possibly as a result, Brier used most of his money to raise his profile. $25,000 went to Hart Research Associates to conduct a poll. The Fundraising Management Group, which (no surprise) provides fundraising strategy, got $20,444.15. Media expenses were another focal point, with $17,800 going to Putnam Partners and another $3,500 to Unmasked Media Group. 

Brier pitches change, DePasquale experience to flip 10th Congressional District seat blue

Brier also made ads a priority, shelling out $1,580 to put them on Facebook, while another $600 went to iHeartRadio and $50 was spent to get an ad on the Harrisburg internet radio station The Voice 17104. It also appears that $2,219.50 was used for T-shirts printed by Breckert Illustrated Shirts

The campaign paid $3,500 to the Pennsylvania Democratic Party for access to VoterBuilder and $89.28 for a subscription to the New York Times. A $250 contribution was sent to the Derry Township Democratic Committee and $39 in loans were paid off.

Correspondent Nick Field covers southeastern Pennsylvania for the Capital-Star.