Even as the jury in the high-profile Bonusgate trial was deliberating, someone in Democratic state Rep. Mike O'Brien's district office in Philadelphia used a fax machine - paid for by taxpayers - to send off portions of a petition seeking to strike one of O'Brien's challengers from the primary ballot.

So contends the challenger - Daryl LaFountain - in a court motion of his own. A hearing on the matter is scheduled in Commonwealth Court tomorrow in Philadelphia, according to Lawrence Otter, LaFountain's attorney.

LaFountain is contending that on March 16, one of O'Brien's legislative aides used a fax machine in the district office - "a state resource paid for with tax money," according to the court motion -- to fax portions of a petition aimed at bouncing LaFountain from the ballot. This as jurors in the Bonusgate case were deliberating the fates of former state Rep. Mike Veon (D., Beaver) and three of his aides on charges that they used taxpayer money and resources - like, say, fax machines - to benefit political campaigns.

Not the smartest move, given the circumstances.

Mary Isaacson, the legislative staffer whose name appears on one of the petition documents to strike LaFountain, said she wasn't the one who faxed over the material. She said she was in Harrisburg that day - and has the travel vouchers to prove it. She also said that the petition document was part of a larger fax involving constituent matters.

"They are trying to make a big issue out of it," she said. "... They don't have anything else to campaign on."

Besides, Isaacson said, O'Brien's petition to strike LaFountain from the ballot has been withdrawn.

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