Senate GOP give most of Mustio $$

Published by Laura Olson on .

In addition to the support from Senate Majority Leader Dominic Pileggi and House Majority Leader Mike Turzai noted in today's story, state Rep. Mark Mustio has gotten a large portion of his financial backing from fellow GOP legislative incumbents.

Of the $295,575 that Mustio raised during the past month for his state Senate bid, $211,000 came from current Republican state senators.

A contribution of $100,000 from Pileggi, a Delaware County Republican, accounts for half of those incumbent dollars. Four senators - John Pippy, who is retiring from the seat that Mustio is seeking; Ted Erickson of Delaware County; Pat Browne of Lehigh County; and Richard Alloway of Franklin County - each contributed $25,000, according to the finance report filed Friday.

Sen. John Rafferty of Montgomery County is listed as giving $10,000, and Sen. John Gordner of Columbia County is noted with a $1,000 contribution.


Orie's $$$; behind the 37th District scenes

Published by Tim McNulty on .

Romney in Philadelphia

Steven M. Falk/Philadephia Inquirer

Good morning. Some intriguing stories in the P-G today before Pittsburgh gets a double-dose of presidential politics:

Paula Reed Ward writes on state Sen. Jane Orie using her campaign account to pay for defense lawyers in her public corruption trial:

State Sen. Jane Orie, who will be sentenced next month on 14 criminal counts, paid more than $100,000 in legal fees in 2011 out of her campaign coffers.

According to her campaign finance report for that year filed with the Pennsylvania Department of State, Ms. Orie, R-McCandless, paid her defense attorney, William Costopoulos, a total of $105,500 out of funds that were contributed to her campaign.

She paid another $6,872 in reimbursement to her brother, John R. Orie Jr., for a copy of the transcript from her 2011 trial that ended in a mistrial when prosecutors accused her of submitting fraudulent documents in the case.

Ms. Orie was found guilty of 14 of 24 counts against her at a retrial of the charges in March. She will be sentenced May 21 by Allegheny County Common Pleas Judge Jeffrey A. Manning.

Most experts agree that under Pennsylvania's lax campaign finance laws, using funds to pay for legal expenses -- especially when they are borne out of a candidate's office -- is legally permissible. It has been done before by others in similar situations.

Some, though, raise questions about the ethics of the issue.

Chris Borick, a political science professor at Muhlenberg College, called it "a gray area."

"If it does somehow survive a legal test, it clearly doesn't survive an ethical test," he said.

And Harrisburg bureau chief Laura Olson notes some of the powers-that-be behind moving D. Raja and Sue Means out of the state Senate district they're battling over with fellow Republican state Rep. Mark Mustio:

One of those lawmakers, House Majority Leader Mike Turzai, R-Bradford Woods, has endorsed state Rep. Mark Mustio, a Moon Republican who would still live in the Senate district. Mr. Turzai donated $5,000 to Mr. Mustio and hosted a breakfast fundraiser, according to finance reports.

Additionally, Senate Majority Leader Dominic Pileggi, R-Delaware, contributed $100,000 to Mr. Mustio. The Senate map he proposed would have left Ms. Means' Bethel Park home in the district but exclude Mr. Raja, who lives in Mt. Lebanon.

Karen Langley followed Mitt Romney -- who's in Bethel Park this morning before heading to Lancaster -- when he addressed a tea party event last night in Philly:

They cheered when the presumed Republican nominee pledged to repeal President Barack Obama's health care law, when he charged that the president does not understand the economy, when he promised to never apologize for America.

"I think he was surprised by how enthusiastic we are as tea partiers," said Diana Mitzner, a real estate agent from Cherry Hill, N.J. "We, the tea party people, believe that the current administration is a disaster for our country."

The GOP released this statement in advance of Michelle Obama's private fundraising events later today:

“During his time as President, Obama has offered many shiny objects and focused on cynical political gimmicks that divide the country, but he has failed to deliver on the promises he made four years ago.  Today, on tax day, the Obama campaign is in Pennsylvania using Pittsburgh as an ATM for the Obama reelection fund while at the same time proposing tax increases on hardworking Americans to pay for his out-of-control spending.”RNC Spokesperson Allie Brandenburger

The DNC released this video on Romney:


Romney, Michelle O to Pgh

Published by Tim McNulty on .

General election time is heating up in Pittsburgh before the state's primary is even held next Tuesday.

GOP presidential nominee-to-be Mitt Romney will be in Bethel Park at 12:30 pm tomorrow for a private roundtable at the Bethel Park Community Center, before flying on to address the annual GOP dinner in Lancaster. Michelle Obama will also be in town for an event with military families at the 911th refueling wing in Moon and two private fundraisers in the city.


Small fire prompts closure of USDA building

Published by Tracie Mauriello on .

Several thousand federal agriculture employees got an unexpected day off today after an electrical fire in the Department of Agriculture's South Building forced power to be turned off to the building.

The small basement fire, which was quickly contained, occurred at 4:30 a.m. during routine electrical maintenance, said USDA spokesman Justin DeJong.

About 6,300 employees work in the South Building, including Agriculture Secretary Tom Vilsack, a Pittsburgh native. Mr. Vilsack didn't take the day off, though. Instead, he worked out of the nearby U.S. Forrest Service he co-opted some space in the nearby U.S. Forrest Service's headquarters. 

The USDA building is expected to re-open tomorrow. 

Mr. DeLong could not immediately provide a damage estimate. 


Murphy goes negative in AG race

Published by Laura Olson on .

Patrick Murphy has put the criticisms he's been saying about Democratic attorney general opponent Kathleen Kane into a new TV ad, according to PoliticsPA.

The ad includes two main points that Murphy has tried to use against Kane -- a $500 donation that she made to Republican Tom Corbett during his 2008 attorney general's race and an antagonistic relationship between her husband's trucking firm and labor unions.

Kane has answered each, telling me last month that she also has donated thousands of dollars to Democratic candidates and that she does not hold any position with her husband's firm (though he has provided most of the financing for her campaign).

Take a look at the ad yourself below. The piece follows a new positive spot that was on air in Harrisburg last week, featuring a set of Philadelphia heavy-hitters: Mayor Michael Nutter, District Attorney Seth Williams, Congresswoman Allyson Schwartz, and former Gov. Ed Rendell.

Expect those ads to increase during the final furlough leading up to next Tuesday. The Associated Press reports that Murphy and Kane had raised $4.6 million, according to campaign finance reports filed Friday.