WASHINGTON – The Federal Election Commission dismissed a watchdog group’s complaint against former South Jersey U.S. Rep. Rob Andrews, saying that even though he appeared to use $30,000 of campaign funds for personal use on a luxurious family trip to Scotland, he had paid the money back and should not be prosecuted.The commission examined a 2011 trip in which Andrews, a Democrat, tapped his campaign funds to help bring his wife and two daughters to a wedding in Edinburgh, where they stayed in the five-star Balmoral hotel. It found that the political purpose Andrews cited -- that the wedding was for a political adviser who had once been a volunteer consultant -- "seems too tenuous" to justify using campaign funds.
But since Andrews later repaid the money, “the Commission, in consideration of Commission resources, exercises its prosecutorial discretion and dismisses the allegation,” the FEC wrote in a letter dated May 28 and sent to Citizens for Responsibility and Ethics in Washington, a non-partisan ethics group that filed the complaint against Andrews. Andrews repaid the money after the Star-Ledger drew attention to the campaign spending.
The ethics, group, which goes by CREW, released the FEC letter Tuesday.
WASHINGTON – Claire Gustafson, a South Jersey Republican candidate for Congress who has relentlessly attacked primary opponent Garry Cobb, has fueled her campaign with $12,600 of her own money, according to an aide. But a full accounting of her financial support and spending won’t be available until months after Tuesday’s primary election.
Gustafson has not filed a full campaign finance report due to the timing of her fund-raising and technical problems with the federal reporting web site, according to her campaign manager, Steve Kush. Kush said they are in compliance with federal disclosure rules. Gustafson, Cobb and five other candidates are running for the Camden County-based House seat that was vacated in February by Democrat Rob Andrews.
Gustafson did plan to file a 48-hour notice Friday showing that she gave her campaign $12,600 on May 20 – six days after a May 14 deadline for inclusion in the final, pre-primary campaign report with a full accounting of fund-raising and spending. The personal donations account for the bulk of the roughly $17,000 Gustafson has raised for the race, Kush said.
UPDATED with comments from an interview with Dent.
WASHINGTON – The growing wave of political support for same-sex marriage crossed another threshold in Pennsylvania Wednesday, when U.S. Rep. Charlie Dent became one of only a few Republicans in Congress to support the idea.
"The American public’s views on this issue have shifted. So have mine," Dent said in a statement released by his office. "Life is too short to have the force of government stand in the way of two adults whose pursuit of happiness includes marriage."
WASHINGTON – Sarah Palin has endorsed Steve Lonegan in a heated South Jersey Republican Congressional primary.
"Steve is the type of conservative leader we need. He believes in the free market principles this country was founded on because he has seen first hand how they can lead to success," Palin wrote on her Facebook page Tuesday. "He will be a dedicated fighter for lower taxes, balanced budgets, and lessening the burdens of regulation on small businesses."
In backing Lonegan, the former GOP vice presidential candidate added her name to a fierce Republican fight playing out in a moderate district with an open seat. Palin also endorsed Lonegan last year in his unsuccessful Senate campaign against Democrat Cory Booker.
WASHINGTON – When the voting stopped Tuesday, Montgomery County was left on the outside looking in.
The third most populous county in Pennsylvania is facing the prospect of having no member of Congress from within its borders. U.S. Rep. Allyson Schwartz – a MontCo resident – chose to run for governor, and in the Democratic primary to replace her, three county residents were left in the dust by Northeast Philadelphia’s Brendan Boyle.
MontCo still has a shot in the fall -- Boyle will face Republican Dee Adcock in November – but it would take a huge upset for Adcock to win in the heavily Democratic district.
WASHINGTON – Aimee Belgard, a South Jersey Democrat running for Congress, called Thursday for U.S. Veteran Affairs secretary Eric Shinseki to resign in the wake of a scandal showing long delays in providing medical care to veterans.
Many Republicans have also called for Shinseki’s the resignation – including South Jersey U.S. Rep. Frank LoBiondo – but Belgard is one of very few Democrats to go that far."What happened in Phoenix is deplorable and unethical. Those responsible must be held accountable, including Secretary Shinseki. It is beyond me how this could occur under the radar of the Department of Veterans Affairs." Belgard, a Burlington County freeholder, said in a news release. "I'm extremely disheartened by how long it took the Obama Administration to investigate this situation.”
News reports have shown that a Phoenix VA hid delays even as some veterans died while awaiting care.
Five thoughts on Tuesday’s Pennsylvania primary results:
-- It was a bad night for Montgomery County
When the jockeying began, Allyson Schwartz was supposed to be the favorite to win the Democratic nomination for governor. Marjorie Margolies, a former Congresswoman who is mother-in-law to Chelsea Clinton and had Bill and Hillary in her corner, was supposed to be the favorite to replace Schwartz in Congress. But both lost – Schwartz to Tom Wolf, Margolies to Philadelphia’s Brendan Boyle – and neither race was very close.
MontCo, the third most populous county in the state and second richest, now faces the prospect of going into 2014 without any home turf representation in Congress or on top of the gubernatorial ticket.
WASHINGTON – An already fierce Republican primary in South Jersey has now picked up allegations of defamation (by one candidate), accusations of bullying (by another) and fake campaign Web sites that disparage one another.
The latest round of back-and-forth began with businessman and former Randolph Mayor Tom MacArthur suing his opponent, Steve Lonegan, for defamation in response to information on one of the sites. Lonegan reacted Tuesday with a Trenton press conference in which he called MacArthur a bully.
“It's this kind of bullying and strong-arming of people that's downright despicable and has no place in this race,” said a Lonegan press release tied to the event.