When Pennsylvania Republicans rumble – tales from the crypt

    UPDATED THURSDAY, 6:30 P.M.

    Note: I’ll be away until Tuesday getting some R&R – Off Mic returns then.

     

    After a candidates’ debate last week I was talking to David Christian, one of five Republicans hopefuls competing to run against Bob Casey this year. I asked how he could possibly win the GOP primary with little money and no discernible support.

     

    He told me he was going to win this thing, and that he’s getting support from a super PAC.

    Uh, excuse me?

    “I’m the only candidate that was adopted by a super PAC,” he said.

    Really. What’s it called?

    “A super PAC,” he said.

    No, I mean the name. What’s the super PAC called?

    “That’s the name of it,” he said. “A SuperPAC.”

    I wondered if Christian had lost it, but figured I should check.

    Sure enough, it’s right there, on the Federal Election Commission’s list of “Independent Expenditure Only Committees”, the technical term for super PAC’s.

    “A SuperPAC” was registered in January to a guy in Frederick, Maryland named Matthew Balazik, who has ties to Pennsylvania.

    The committee’s filing with the FEC shows it spent about $3,000 on mailings and web ads  in the Pennsylvania Senate race, much of it on mailings in January attacking Republicans running against Christian.

    One, pictured above, attacks Chester County businessman Steve Welch, who admits he became a Democrat for a few years and voted for Barack Obama in the 2008 primary (he says he voted for Republican John McCain in the fall).

    Although I didn’t notice it at the time, Keegan Gibson, managing editor of the website PoliticsPA did a fine piece on Balazik and his committee in January, when the mailings went out to members of the State Republican Committee.

    Gibson noted that Balazik worked in the past with Skip Salveson, who is managing David Christian’s Senate campaign.

    What’s really weird is that A SuperPAC’s website is superpacforhire.com, and its home page features this message:

    Have you ever wanted a message to get out to the voting public about a candidate running for federal office but didn’t want the mess of production, compliance, or disclosure paperwork? a SuperPAC wants to get the TRUTH out too.

    a SuperPAC accepts unlimited corporate and individuals’ donations for rolling out its independent expenditure campaign messages.

    a SuperPAC also threads a needle through IRS and FEC regulation, helping a donor to veil their identity.

    I spoke with Balazik this afternoon, and he said A SuperPAC is committed to helping people “speak their minds without fear of intimidation or threats.”

    “So we protect the anonymity and confidentiality of our donors to the maximum extent of the law,” he said. “That goes hand in hand with the anonymity of our name.”

    I was little puzzled by this, since my undeerstanding is that the rules require super PAC’s to disclose any donors who give $200 or more.

    Balazik said there’s an art to protecting the identity of donors, and he’s spent some effort learning it. He said he regards some of his techniques, which he says are all legal, as “trade secrets.”

    “If you read the laws, there are designed loopholes in there to be taken advantage of,” he said.

    I’ll say this: He returned my call, spoke on the record, and emailed me a copy of his FEC report, which wasn’t yet available on the commission’s website.

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