Conservative group: DePasquale misused campaign funds
A conservative watchdog organization has launched a campaign finance complaint against state Auditor General Eugene DePasquale, renewing accusations that the 10th Congressional District challenger illegally used funds from his previous bids for state office to kick-start his congressional campaign.
The Foundation for Accountability and Civic Trust, a Washington-based organization, on Friday filed the complaint with the Federal Election Commission. It was nearly identical to accusations lodged in April by Tom Brier, DePasquale's opponent in the recent Democratic primary.
Brier's complaint was never notarized — a requirement of the FEC. Brier has since endorsed DePasquale.
"It appears he took previously raised funds from his state account to hire and pay a team of political vendors to launch his congressional bid," said Kendra Arnold, executive director of FACT. "Not only does this merit immediate investigation, this is a serious offense and if a violation is found by the FEC appropriate penalties need to be administered."
The complaint cites $113,050 in funds that were allegedly taken from DePasquale's state-level campaign committee and used to test the waters prior to his campaign seeking to oust four-term Rep. Scott Perry, R-Carroll Township.
The FEC explicitly prohibits federal candidates from accepting funds or assets transferred from non-federal committees.
Descriptions of the expenditures describe services such as consulting, video and media production and website-related work.
That includes $33,000 paid to Virginia-based Jackson Media group for consulting and video production. The group's founder, Bud Jackson, briefly handled press relations and worked as a consultant in the early stages of DePasquale's campaign.
DePasquale didn't officially file with the FEC to run for Congress until July 2019, two months after the most recent payments.
However, just as Brier stated in his April complaint, those expenditures coincided with rumors that the auditor general was "strongly" considering running for the seat, the complaint states.
"Even though he wasn’t running for state office, DePasquale used his state account to hire and pay several political campaign vendors for services including a campaign video, website, research and social media ads," the complaint states.
Regardless of the complaint, the FEC board does not have a quorum and therefore cannot rule on the matter.
DePasquale spokesperson Kunal Atit rebuffed the allegation, calling it "a fake complaint filed by a partisan organization with ties to the very Koch brothers who are bankrolling Congressman Perry's campaign."
"If these baseless allegations are the best Washington special interests can throw at us, they are clearly in trouble," Atit said.
While FACT identifies as nonpartisan, the group established in 2014 that was once headed by former acting U.S. Attorney General Matthew Whitaker has been known to target Democrats.
It also has been described as a "dark money" group that is bankrolled by private donors, according to OpenSecrets, a website run by the Washington-based Center for Responsive Politics.
OpenSecrets has reported that FACT's funding in the past has come entirely from a conservative fund called DonorsTrust, which has received and distributed money on behalf of donors such as billionaire Charles Koch.
Some of the organization's most prominent allegations have targeted Sens. Elizabeth Warren and Kamala Harris, of Massachusetts and California respectively, over campaign fundraising emails sent amid the confirmation process of Supreme Court Justice Brett Kavanaugh.
The organization was also heavily critical of Hillary Clinton for her use of a private email server when she served as secretary of state under former President Barack Obama.
— Logan Hullinger can be reached at email@example.com or via Twitter at @LoganHullYD.