Herr files complaint against Chesco GOP over Web ads

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Says county party failed to report costs as donation on federal election campaign filings
By Mike McGann, Editor, UnionvilleTimes.com

Lois Herr, the Democratic candidate for Congress in the 16th District has filed a complaint with the Federal Election Commission claiming that the Chester County Republican Committee failed to file the proper finance reports related to a series of Web ads attacking her — as she attempts for the third time to unseat incumbent Joe Pitts (R-East Marlborough).

Most of the 16 Web spots take shots at a Herr, describing her as “Left Wing Lois” appeared to have been produced in-house, using Apple Computer’s iMovie software and all carry the notice that they were paid for by the Chester County Republican Committee. Herr’s complaint alleges that the committee failed to report “in-kind” donations, either from the individual who produced them or from the committee itself.

Herr, who lost races to Pitts in 2004 and 2006, argues that the failure to file was a “serious offense” and such behavior hurts the integrity of the election process.

“The influence of money in our elections is a great hazard,” Herr said. “We require that campaign money be reported for a reason. As Louis Brandeis said, ‘Sunlight is the best disinfectant.’ It is very disappointing that Chester County’s Republicans are hiding in the dark.”

An email request for comment from the Chester County Republican Committee Tuesday morning was not answered by Tuesday afternoon. However, since the McCain-Feingold campaign finance reform went into effect, it has become much more complicated for local political parties to coordinate their efforts with federal campaigns. One local Republican, when reached for comment, who asked not to be identified on the record, as he was not authorized to speak for the party, said it was likely little more than a paperwork oversight — and that there was clearly no intent  to deceive or confuse, as the ads all carry notice at the end saying they were paid for by the Chester County Republican Committee.

Officials from the Herr campaign argue that, even if it was a mistake, the lack of transparency is disturbing.

“Federal law requires that groups like the Chester County Republican Party report their contributions and disbursements on a very regular schedule,” said Gregory Paulson,  Herr’s campaign field director. “This could be a mistake on their part, but it is very disturbing that we do not know who is paying for these attacks this close to an election.”

This is the latest flap in what has been a surprisingly close election race for the seven-term incumbent — especially in light of what appears to be a national swing toward GOP candidates. While Herr has claimed the race was within 7 points in September, even those close to Pitts concede that internal polls have the race closer than 10 points — which would be one of the tightest races in the district in recent memory.

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