The first television ads for the hotly contest 8th Congressional District seat in Bucks County kicked off this week.
In the 30-second spot for Pennsylvania Rep. Steve Santarsiero, voices from around the 8th emphasize the Democratic candidate’s clean spending record in the state Legislature, immediately drawing fire from national Republican operatives.
“In Harrisburg, Steve refused … the perks and the per diems,” said two unidentified small-business owners featured in the ad.
By perks, Santarsiero’s campaign means the free car and flat daily expense rate offered to lawmakers — and which some exploit to add tens of thousands of dollars to their annual salaries. Good government groups have called out the per diems as excessive for allowing lawmakers to pocket the difference.
The National Republican Congressional Committee, which campaigns on behalf of Republican congressional incumbents and hopefuls across the country, shot back with numbers requested from the state Legislature, detailing Santarsiero’s reimbursements for work-related expenses.
“Steve is flat-out lying,” said Chris Pack, the committee’s regional press secretary. “He said that he hasn’t accepted perks, but he submitted for $25,000 in mileage.”
The actual figure, which covers seven years of driving between Bucks County and Harrisburg, is $24,689. During that same period, Santarsiero received $806.88 in reimbursements for meals.
Santarsiero’s camp said it’s making a distinction between arbitrary per-diem rates and actual work-related costs.
“Like anyone who has a job and they incur business expenses, you know Steve has submitted reimbursements,” said Santarsiero campaign spokesman Eric Goldman. “He has turned down perks like a state car, he has turned down a flat-rate per diem.”
In addition to pay, Santarsiero’s ad touts his work as a state lawmaker that includes promoting legislation to limit access to firearms for people on the federal terrorism watch list and lobbying a large public relations business to locate in his district.
Santarsiero is running against former federal agent Brian Fitzpatrick, brother to incumbent U.S. Rep. Mike Fitzpatrick.
Airing on major broadcast networks including ABC and Fox, the ad costs in the six figures for the first week of airtime, according to Goldman.