HARRISBURG - Pennsylvania's top elections official said yesterday that he would go to court to block an out-of-state nonprofit group from televising an ad promoting a Republican state Supreme Court candidate.
Secretary of State Pedro Cortés said the ad by the Virginia-based Center for Individual Freedom in support of Superior Court Judge Maureen Lally-Green violates state election law because it is financed with corporate money. The law forbids the use of corporate funds to influence elections.
"Due to the fact that this ad is being aired in the week immediately preceding the municipal election, the advertisement leaves the listener or viewer with the clear request to thank Judge Lally-Green by voting for her," Cortés said.
The organization describes the 30-second spot, which touts Lally-Green as being tough on criminals, as part of a "public education effort" in Pennsylvania, according to a news release posted on its Web site Sunday. The ad is being shown in some of the state's most expensive TV markets, including Philadelphia, Pittsburgh and Harrisburg.
The organization says its mission is "to protect and defend individual freedoms and individual rights guaranteed by the U.S. Constitution." The group's president, Jeffrey Mazzella, did not immediately return a telephone message left at its Alexandria, Va., headquarters last evening.
Cortés said he would petition Commonwealth Court for an injunction and a cease-and-desist order against the group today. He said his request does not suggest any wrongdoing by Lally-Green or her campaign.
Lally-Green campaign spokesman Mark Weaver said the ads were in no way connected to the campaign.
"We've never met this group, we didn't ask them to run these ads, and we have no part in the dispute between the secretary of state and them," Weaver said.
Lally-Green is competing against fellow Superior Court Judges Seamus McCaffery and Debra Todd, both Democrats, and Republican candidate Michael Krancer to fill two vacancies on the state's highest court.