- A group that aired a TV ad critical of Republican Gov. Corbett is the impetus for a planned hearing before the House State Government Committee, the panel's chairman said yesterday.
Rep. Daryl Metcalfe said he believes the Pennsylvanians for Accountability group is required to register as a state political committee and disclose contributions and expenditures because it's trying to influence the outcome of an election. He said the committee plans an informational hearing June 5.
"They appear to be a political committee more than anything else," the Butler County Republican said, also citing the group's ads last year that targeted four Republican candidates for the Legislature.
The group recently ran a TV spot that alleges the governor has played "a shell game" with taxpayers' money by expanding tax breaks for businesses while neglecting education, health care and transportation needs. The commercial aired in markets outside of the Philadelphia region.
Corbett is expected to run for a second term in 2014 and his stubbornly low job-approval rating has energized a half-dozen Democrats who are jockeying for the nomination to challenge him.
Pennsylvanians for Accountability plans to apply for tax-exempt status as a "social welfare" advocate under section 501(c)4 of the federal tax code within a couple weeks, said Adam Bonin, a lawyer for the group. Such groups may get involved in political campaigns without having to publicly disclose their donors so long as social welfare remains their primary mission.
Bonin said case law makes clear that such groups do not have to register and report as political committees as long they do not directly urge citizens to vote for or elect a candidate.
"The (U.S.) Supreme court has been pretty clear on this," he said.
The group does not have a home office, spokeswoman Lynsey Kryzwick said Thursday. It operates largely through a Facebook site that features photos of Corbett accompanied by unflattering statements about the governor that are generally amplified in comments by visitors to the site.
Kryzwick, who works for a New York-based campaign consulting company, said the group's focus reflects bipartisan disenchantment over Corbett's programs even though it has targeted Republicans exclusively.
Education nominee *
Gov. Corbett has nominated William Harner to be Pennsylvania's next education secretary.
The posting of Harner's nomination yesterday sets the stage for a Senate confirmation hearing and vote.
The Republican governor had announced last week that Harner, superintendent of Cumberland Valley School District in Mechanicsburg, is his choice to succeed Ron Tomalis as secretary.
Tomalis is moving into an advisory role in the administration.
Harner is a graduate of the U.S. Military Academy at West Point. He holds a doctorate in educational leadership and two master's degrees. He is slated to take over as acting secretary on June 3.
The Department of Education oversees more than $14 billion in state and federal money for Pennsylvania's public schools, charter schools, libraries, universities and colleges.