Pa. high court candidates not above dark money

    Justice Christine Donahue and Justice David Wecht (right) during a campaign debate in Harrisburg in 2015 (AP Photo/Matt Slocum)

    Justice Christine Donahue and Justice David Wecht (right) during a campaign debate in Harrisburg in 2015 (AP Photo/Matt Slocum)

    Six of the seven candidates vying for three open seats on the Pennsylvania Supreme Court say it’s a dark-money world – and they’re just living in it.

     

    At a forum in Harrisburg on Wednesday, the three Republicans and three Democrats in the running say they aren’t promising to denounce negative advertising funded by groups that don’t disclose their donors, because the practice is absolutely legal.

    But the lone Independent in the race said he will denounce such contributions.

    “The purpose of the pledge, I thought, was to discourage dark money and other monies from coming into the campaign … we know they have the right,” said Philadelphia Common Pleas Judge Paul Panepinto, who has run as a Republican in past appellate races.

    Panepinto is lagging in fundraising totals among candidates who have raked in eye-popping amounts of cash. Supreme Court hopefuls have raised more than $8 million this year, if you count the money reported before the primary contest.

    The political balance of the high court is up for grabs this fall, with an unprecedented three available seats.

    Panepinto is joined in the race by Democratic candidates Superior Court Judge David Wecht, Superior Court Judge Christine Donohue, and Philadelphia Common Pleas Judge Kevin Dougherty. The Republican candidates are Superior Court Judge Judith Olson, Adams County Common Pleas Judge Mike George, and Commonwealth Court Judge Anne Covey.

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