GOP Feud: Corman changes forensic investigation, reassigns Mastriano’s staff in squabble over probe

‘For six weeks, I’ve been working in good faith with my Republican leadership, and they’ve done nothing but stonewall me,’ Mastriano told a right-wing news outlet

By: - August 20, 2021 6:39 pm

Sen. Doug Mastriano, R-Franklin, joins GOP colleagues in Fulton County, Pennsylvania on July 23, 2021, to respond to decertification of voting machines. (Screenshot)

(*This story was updated at 12:24 p.m. on Friday, 8/20/21, with additional comment from Senate President Pro Tempore Jake Corman, at 1:30 p.m. with comment from Sen. Cris Dush’s office, at 2:10 p.m. with comment from Audit the Vote PA, at 3:41 p.m. with comment from GOP spokesperson Jason Thompson, and at 6:34 p.m. with additional information about Sen. Doug Mastriano’s trip to Arizona.)

The Republican state senator who’s leading the charge for an Arizona-style review of Pennsylvania’s election results has accused GOP leadership of pausing the probe, saying they’ve “done nothing but stonewall,” his efforts.

In an interview with the far-right One America News Network, state Sen. Doug Mastriano, R-Franklin, said that Senate leadership canceled an alleged Aug. 6 Senate Intergovernmental Operations Committee meeting where the 10-member panel was supposed to vote on subpoenas for the proposed investigation. He added that Senate leadership “threatened” to revoke his title as committee chair.

“The staff of the Senate leadership canceled my reservation of that room to have a vote,” Mastriano told OAN host Christina Bobb on Thursday. “Additionally, calls were made to my committee members, saying the meeting was canceled without even conferring with me. This happened behind my back.”

“This is the kind of games that are going behind the scenes,” Mastriano added, instructing constituents to call Senate President Pro Tempore Jake Corman, R-Centre, and Senate Majority Leader Kim Ward, R-Westmoreland, to push for the investigation.

In July, Mastriano announced plans to pursue a “forensic investigation” into Pennsylvania’s 2020 general and 2021 primary elections. He made a sweeping request for voting equipment and election information from York, Tioga, and Philadelphia counties. 

However, the three counties — two of them reliably Republican areas, and one Democratic stronghold — refused to comply, citing the cost of replacing election equipment and a directive from the Department of State prohibiting third-party access to voting machines.

Mastriano said he wasn’t surprised the local governing boards declined to participate and said subpoenas would be the next step. Confident the committee would move forward with issuing subpoenas, he said the biggest challenge was finding a time to meet.

A Senate Democrats spokesperson told the Capital-Star that no Democratic members of Mastriano’s seldom-used committee or leadership received any notice of a meeting — for Aug. 6 or any other date relative to subpoenas.

Ward did not respond to a request for comment. 

Corman told the Capital-Star on Friday that those accusations are “absolutely not true” and that Mastriano never scheduled a committee meeting.

“Governing is hard. You have to do things correctly,” Corman told the Capital-Star, saying he worked with Mastriano to structure the Senate committee and work on election integrity. “You don’t do them by holding press conferences and rallies. You actually have to do it logistically, so you do it legally.”

Corman said Mastriano is “very difficult to get to focus” — adding that he’s “more interested in rallies and press conferences than actually doing the hard work” of governing.

Earlier this week, Mastriano appeared at an “Audit the Vote” rally hosted by Women for America First, a conservative group, with state Reps. Dawn Keefer, R-York, and Stephanie Borowicz, R-Clinton, to advocate for the proposed investigation.

He’s also attended events held by Audit the Vote PA, a group that promotes unsubstantiated claims of election fraud. In a video on Friday, Audit the Vote PA co-founder Toni Shuppe told supporters to “ignore the chaos” and “understand that everything is under control for the good.”

Trump lost the 2020 election by 80,555 votes in Pennsylvania. And despite a months-long campaign from Republicans and Trump allies to discredit the results, there’s been no evidence to prove their claims.

As required by law, all 67 Pennsylvania counties conducted post-election audits of a statistical sampling after the 2020 general election. Sixty-three counties conducted “risk-limiting” audits. Neither review found evidence of voter fraud or election misconduct.

During a since-deleted Facebook live on Thursday, Mastriano told his supporters that his cause for a “forensic investigation” into Pennsylvania’s two most recent elections had “been weakened and diminished,” citing influence from the “powers-that-be” and a “betrayal” from a group helping advocate for the probe.

In Mastriano’s “retreat,” Corman has asked Sen. Cris Dush, R-Jefferson, who chairs the Senate Local Government Committee, to take on election integrity matters. Earlier this summer, Dush and Mastriano toured the GOP-backed election review in Arizona, which served as a model for what Mastriano wanted to see carried out in Pennsylvania.

Their trip to Arizona was paid for by Bobb, who also covered the Arizona election review for OAN and helped fund it as president and CEO of Voices and Votes, a nonprofit she created.

Bobb defended Mastriano in a tweet on Friday, saying that she invited Mastriano and Rep. Rob Kauffman, R-Franklin, to Arizona. Mastriano, she said, “insisted” Dush join.

“Dush added no value, and won’t lead an honest audit,” Bobb said.

Dush’s office declined to comment and directed questions about the election investigation to Corman.

“You can’t have a successful democracy if people don’t have faith in the results,” Corman said, adding that he “absolutely” supports an election investigation. “Sometimes Republicans win, sometimes Democrats win. We all move on, but if you don’t have faith in the results, you have a threat to your democracy.”

In a tweet Friday afternoon, Mastriano alleged that Corman “removed my entire Harrisburg staff, and they will now be forced to report to him.”

“This petty move is unbecoming of a Senate ‘leader,’” Mastriano wrote to his more than 153,000 social media followers.

Jason Thompson, a spokesperson for Corman, told the Capital-Star that four employees in Mastriano’s Capitol office are “in the process of being reassigned.” He added that those staff members are employed by the Senate Republican Caucus — not Mastriano.

“Presently, his staffing needs are clearly diminished by the fact that he’s no longer going to be leading the investigation, so those employees are going to be reassigned,” Thompson said.

Since Mastriano shares a Capitol office suite with Sen. Pat Stefano, R-Fayette, the space will be staffed if a constituent were to show up; however, they will be directed to Mastriano’s Chambersburg office, which will remain open.

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Marley Parish
Marley Parish

A Pennsylvania native, Marley Parish covers the Senate for the Capital-Star. She previously reported on government, education and community issues for the Centre Daily Times and has a background in writing, editing and design. A graduate of Allegheny College, Marley served as editor of the campus newspaper, where she also covered everything from student government to college sports.

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