Pennsylvania Republican Lou Barletta’s PAC spent most of its money on overhead
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A Republican candidate for the Pennsylvania governor’s Political Action Committee spent the vast majority of his money in the 2020 election cycle on administrative costs, rather than contributions to political candidates, according to an analysis of official funding data from countryside.
The candidate, former U.S. Representative Lou Barletta, who ran unsuccessfully for the Senate in 2018, continued to maintain the Leaders Only Unite PAC, or LOU PAC, after leaving the House in 2019.
Announcing his decision to turn what had been a “leadership PAC” for members of Congress into a regular federal PAC, Barletta Explain that LOU PAC would focus on supporting political candidates engaged in the fight against undocumented immigration. Barletta has been a vocal opponent of undocumented immigration since his days as mayor of Hazleton, Pennsylvania.
But in the 2020 election cycle, LOU PAC spent nearly $165,000 to “Functionnary costs” this accounted for 79% of the nearly $208,000 spent during this cycle.
This overhead included $33,000 in rent for an unspecified office building owned by Barletta’s wife, Mary Grace Barletta.
The PAC gave only $22,500 in contributions to political candidates or other PACs – 11% of its total expenditures – and spent $20,740 on unspecified “other disbursements”.
Several political strategists told HuffPost that LOU PAC’s ratio of overhead to actual political spending suggests it was an ethically questionable endeavor designed to personally benefit Barletta.
“This PAC has very clearly done no real work with this much overhead and is just another example of why he won’t be Pennsylvania’s next governor,” said Eric Koch, a political consultant. New York-based Democrat.
Barletta’s gubernatorial campaign did not respond to requests for comment on its PAC overhead.
It is illegal for candidates to use PACs for personal gain, but current law makes violations difficult to confirm.
Although Barletta is no longer in Congress during the 2020 election cycle, his PAC practices match a pattern on Capitol Hill.
It is not entirely uncommon for members of Congress to use leadership PACs as de facto spending accounts with limited political utility.
Even within this group, Barletta’s overhead puts it in rarefied company. Of the more than 490 members of the House and Senate who had leadership PACs in the 2020 election cycle, 120 of those members had PACs that spent less than 50% of their spending on political candidates or groups, according to a report by the good government groups Issue One and the Campaign Legal Center. But only 43% of those members had PACs that spent less than 25% of their spending on candidates or political groups, according to the report.
LOU PAC has spent money on a number of items that could raise skepticism about its PAC’s handling of donor money. For example, LOU PAC spent over $13,000 to charter a coach.
But LOU PAC rents stand out. The PAC does not indicate which property it rented to Mary Grace Barletta. In all likelihood however, the payments related to an office building on Rocky Road in Hazleton which Barletta jointly owns with his wife and from which Barletta claimed to earn up to $50,000 rental income in 2019. He also said he used a Rocky Road property to get a loan for between $500,001 and $1 million.
Additionally, all available evidence suggests that the Barlettas owned this property for the duration of the 2020 election cycle. sold a Rocky Road commercial property in November 2020 for $800,000, according to the Luzerne County Recorder of Deeds.
PAC rent payments to Mary Grace Barletta also varied widely during the 2020 election cycle, raising questions about how rent was calculated and why. The PAC paid Mary Grace Barletta $4,400 to lease the office space for the first month, $2,220 per month for the next six months, and $1,100 per month for the remainder of the 2020 election cycle.
Barletta, an early and outspoken supporter of former President Donald Trump, has hired two former Trump campaign staff and appears to be seeking Trump’s endorsement in the May 17 Republican primary. He faces competition from, among others, conservative Pennsylvania State Senator Doug Mastriano, former federal prosecutor Bill McSwain and Pennsylvania State Senate President Jake Corman.
The winner of this primary will face Pennsylvania Attorney General Josh Shapiro in the general election. Shapiro is the only democrat gubernatorial candidate, almost officially securing him his party’s nomination to succeed incumbent governor named Tom Wolf (D).
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