Toomey on a roll, with help from bakery

Published by Chris Potter on .

Citigroup. Blue Cross Blue Shield. JP Morgan. They rank among the most powerful economic interests in the world.

Yet in the effort to support Senate Pat Toomey's re-election bid, they have so far proven mere pikers when compared to the political might of … Martin’s Famous Pastry Shoppe.

As Mr. Toomey gears up for his 2016 race, the Chambersburg Pa.-based bakery -- known in Pennsylvania and beyond for its potato rolls -- ranks ninth among his supporters. Members of the Martin family, which owns the company, have contributed a total of $41,600, according to numbers compiled by the Center for Responsive Politics.

That has outpaced JP Morgan and Citigroup so far, and edged out such heavy hitters as cable giant Comcast and Wall Street titan Goldman Sachs. And the CRP's numbers understate the family's support: FEC records show the Martins have also contributed to Mr. Toomey's acronym-friendly leadership committee, "Citizens for Prosperity in America Today," or CPAT.

"We feel he understands the issues involving family-owned businesses,” said Julie Martin, who handles public relations and social media for the company. "We think his fiscally conservative mindset helps us keep jobs here, and we like his common-sense approach to the Second Amendment."

Ms. Martin also praised Mr. Toomey's personal touch: “He has come to Martin’s and flat-out looked us in the eyes and said, 'How can government help you do what you're already doing well?' It really felt like he was listening to us and our concerns.”

She allowed that "we may not always agree with everything he does" -- and confessed to some trepidation concerning Mr. Toomey’s previous foray into expanding background checks on firearm purchases. "We weren't exactly sure what that was going to look like."

Indeed, that proposal has already proved a bit of a stumbling block for Mr. Toomey's campaign: Democrat Katie McGinty raised it just yesterday. But Ms. Martin said she didn't expect the gun issue to be much of a concern for her family going forward:

"After meeting and understanding what he was going for, it did make a little more sense," though she decilned to discuss specifics. 

Mr. Toomey isn't the only recipient of the Martin family's dough. FEC records show that since 2004, the Martins have backed conservatives including Rick Santorum, Sam Brownbeck and Michele Bachmann, as well as the National Rifle Association, as well as a political committee tied to the American Bakers Association ("the voice of the wholesale baking industry").

One family member has backed a committee supporting presidential candidate Ben Carson, though Julie Martin, for one, said she was "still undecided" among a list of three presidential contenders. Family members "don't always agree" on politics, she added, though, "We come down on God, country, and taking care of jobs here."

Mr. Toomey doesn't lack for support from larger businesses, and the Martin family's role as contributor may shrink as the campaign wends on: The Pastry Shoppe has actually fallen from the 6th-place spot it held among Mr. Toomey's supporters last month. Far and away Mr. Toomey's largest supporter is the Club for Growth, a pro-business non-profit that Mr. Toomey once headed. Individuals tied to Club for Growth have given Mr. Toomey just under $170,000 -- roughly quadruple what the Martins have provided.

Then again, Mr. Toomey is among the top recipients of small-dollar contributions so far this election cycle, suggesting he has the ability to draw both from Wall Street and a Main Street business -- one that literally started in a family garage.

"Senator Toomey has earned the support of people from across the entire political spectrum," said his campaign last week.


UPDATED: McGinty pushes Toomey to bring back gun control bill

Published by Mike Pound on .

Leanne DiLorenzo, 48, leaves flowers at a memorial outside Umpqua Community College in Roseburg, Oregon, October 3, 2015. (Lucy Nicholson/Reuters)Leanne DiLorenzo, 48, leaves flowers at a memorial outside Umpqua Community College in Roseburg, Oregon, October 3, 2015. (Lucy Nicholson/Reuters)

Just days after a mass shooting at Umpqua Community College in Roseburg, Oregon, Katie McGinty is continuing her pressure on Sen. Pat Toomey to reintroduce gun control legislation that was defeated in the Senate three years ago.

Ms. McGinty, the former chief of staff for Gov. Tom Wolf and one of three seeking the Democratic nod to run against the incumbent Republican senator, sent a letter today to Mr. Toomey, asking that the senator reintroduce 2013 legislation that would have expanded requirements for background checks for all commerical gun purchases. That amendment, which Mr. Toomey wrote with Sen. Joe Manchin, D-W.Va., was defeated 54-46.

"I know that passing meaningful legislation takes time and repeated, persistent effort," Ms. McGinty wrote in the letter. "It can be a frustrating and disappointing exercise. But I also know that if you are truly committed to doing the right thing – and you truly believe in your efforts – you do not let failure deter you. You keep on trying until you secure the votes needed to pass the legislation."

Ms. McGinty's campaign manager hammered Mr. Toomey on the legislation last month, after a gun-rights group called off a demonstration at Toomey offices across the state because its leadership had "received positive responses to our request that the Toomey-Manchin anti-gun legislation or any similar bills not be reintroduced. The statement from the group, Pennsylvanians for Self-Protection, prompted Mike Mikus to say that Mr. Toomey "was caught red-handed telling certain groups one thing, and telling Pennsylvanians something completely different."

But a Toomey spokeswoman told the Post-Gazette at the time that while a staffer had met with the gun-rights group, the senator had not ruled out reintroducing background checks legislation.

"Sen. Toomey is 100 percent committed to expanding background checks to keep guns out of the hands of criminals and the mentally ill,'' Elizabeth Anderson, Mr. Toomey's communications director, said in an email. "He is open to supporting any legislative effort that accomplishes that goal, including the reintroduction of the Manchin-Toomey bill.''

And after the Charleston church shooting in June, Mr. Toomey told the Washington Post he was looking for a viable way to resurrect the legislation with Mr. Mangin: "What I'm trying to figure out is, is there something that could get the support of the 60 votes that we would need in the Senate. Joe Manchin was and is a great partner and someone I will continue to work with, and I'm open to exploring what is possible."

UPDATED, 10 a.m., Oct. 6:

This morning we recieved the following statement from Steve Kelly, press secretary for Mr. Toomey's re-election campaign: "We welcome Katie McGinty's support of the Toomey-Manchin background checks legislation. If she really wanted to be helpful, she would turn her attention to those who oppose the bill, including her fellow Democrats, rather than trying to concoct far-fetched political attacks against the bill's sponsor, Pat Toomey."


Pizza, pirogies on the line for Sens. Toomey, Kirk

Published by Tracie Mauriello on .

Pedro Florimon scores the game winner against the Cubs at PNC Park on Sept. 15. (Peter Diana/Post-Gazette)

As if pennant race pressure isn't enough, pizza and pierogies will be on the line, too when Garrit Cole takes the pitcher's mound for Wednesday's National League Wild Card game against the Chicago Cubs.

U.S. Sen. Pat Toomey, R-Pa., has a wager with his Illinois Republican colleague Mark Kirk.

If the Bucs win, Mr. Toomey will dine on two Chicago delicacies courtesy of Mr. Kirk: Lou Malnati's deep dish pizza and Goose Island's 312 beer. If the Pirates lose, he'll have to deliver Iron City Beer and dinner from Pierogi Plus of McKees Rocks to Mr. Kirk.

In addition, the losing senator must model the winning team's t-shirt on social media.

The wager came with a bit of trash talk between the senators, friends who usually find themselves on the same sides of a battle. They're currently working together to get the Senate to pass their bill to keep economic sanctions in place until Iran pays $43 billion in compensation to American victims of terrorism.

This morning's banter took a much lighter tone.

"After another outstanding season, Andrew McCutchen, Gerrit Cole, and the Bucs are about the make the Cubs walk the plank," Mr. Toomey said. "Chicago has gone 107 years without making the World Series, and in a few days, my friend Mark will see that number go up to 108. Throughout Buc Nation, we will be raising the Jolly Roger come Wednesday night."

Mr. Kirk didn't take kindly to that.

"With Joe Maddon as manger and star players like Anthony Rizzo and Kris Bryant, the Cubs have been baseball's most exciting team this year, and I look forward to seeing them get past the Pirates," Mr. Kirk said. "I'm confident that with Jake Arrieta on the mound for the Cubs, I won't be handing over any Lou Malnati's deep dish or 312 beer to Pat next week."


Report: Fetterman has some friends on the inside

Published by Chris Potter on .

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In the field of Democrats vying for the nomination in next year’s Senate race, Braddock Mayor John Fetterman -- all tattooed 6-foot-8 of him -- is pretty much the portrait of a "political outsider." But a report on an online news site suggests Mr. Fetterman has a bit of an inside game as well.

Capitolwire, a political site focused on state-level politics, reported today that Mr. Fetterman has made use of his friendship with Allyson Schwartz, a former Philadelphia-area congresswoman who Mr. Fetterman supported for governor in 2014. He was, in fact, among Ms. Schwartz’s few western Pennsylvania allies.

Or as Capitolwire pithily put it, “Fetterman, who is running an ‘outsider’ campaign, has ties to Schwartz, a consummate Washington insider.” (We’d provide a link, but it’s subscription-only.) And Mr. Fetterman rented email lists from Ms. Schwartz in a bid to scare up some financial support from her donors.

“I was inspired by Allyson's message, and now I’m running for U.S. Senate,” Mr. Fetterman said in the e-mail his campaign sent to Schwartz backers this week.

The story comes out a day after a conservative group posted footage of Mr. Fetterman suggesting another Democrat in the race, Katie McGinty, was the pick of party leaders. And indeed, Ms. McGinty has racked up a string of endorsements from Democratic officials, starting with Gov. Tom Wolf. But obviously Mr. Fetterman has a some big-name backing too … and Ms. Schwartz and Ms. McGinty competed in the 2014 gubernatorial race. 

As reported here earlier this week, Mr. Fetterman’s bid may be more sophisticated than you might expect from a candidate who has never run for an office above the borough level. He has, after all, hired a top-flight political consultant to manage his campaign. Tapping the network of an ally in Philadelphia, where Mr. Fetterman is less well-known, seems savvy too.

“Using Allyson’s list is a no-brainer,” said Mr. Fetterman in an interview. He touted her “record of accomplishment,” including her work to establishe the CHIP health-insurance program for kids in low-income families. “I see that pay dividends every day in my community,” he said. “She epitomizes the best of political pragmatism.”

But! Are you worried Mr. Fetterman’s inside connections might somehow get the better of him?

“I’m the mayor of Braddock," he said. “If you think I’m an insider, you’re probably smoking something. And you should vote for me too, because I want to make that legal.”


The good old days with Rick Santorum

Published by Mike Pound on .

Hillary Auction from Santorum for President 2016 on Vimeo.

Remember the Clintons' Lincoln Bedroom scandal? Rick Santorum does.

A new campaign ad from our former senator whisks us back to 1997, when Bill and Hillary Clinton last resided in the White House – and, perhaps not coincidentally, the last time Mr. Santorum held an elected office.

The ad purports to give us a behind-the-scenes look at a Hillary Clinton fundraiser; the event is an auction, and the "donors" are bidding thousands on a night in the Lincoln Bedroom.

The Lincoln Bedroom (Associated Press photo)The Lincoln Bedroom (Associated Press photo)

Drawing a blank on the reference? ER is here to help. The Clintons got themselves in hot water 18 years ago, when it was found that friends and supporters of the Clintons who had been invited to sleepovers in the White House's guest quarters – that would be the Lincoln Bedroom, named because Abraham Lincoln used the room as an office – also had been significant donors to the Democratic National Committee. Republicans howled about the practice, which the Clintons said was thoroughly vetted by staff attorneys ... and as was the case with most of the manufactured Clinton scandals, not much else happened after that.

The thing that's interesting? At least some of the 1997 Lincoln Bedroom guests made six-figure donations to the DNC; in Mr. Santorum's new ad, the winner gets a night's stay at the bargain basement price of $50,000. Who says money rules all in politics these days?