The mailers look as if they could have come from State Rep. Brian Sims’ campaign for lieutenant governor, with pictures apparently pilfered from the Philadelphia Democrat’s website.
But Commonwealth Partners, a conservative group in Harrisburg, picked up the bill, spending nearly $176,000 to support Sims in a three-candidate primary Tuesday.
Call it a case of shenanigans begetting shenanigans.
Commonwealth founder Matt Brouilette has been howling on social media for a solid week about state Attorney General Josh Shapiro meddling in the Republican primary for governor.
Shapiro, the only Democrat running for governor, started airing television ads last week clearly aimed to bolster the Republican front-runner, State Sen. Doug Mastriano of Franklin County, calling him one of former President Donald Trump’s “strongest supporters.”
It’s the kind of ad Mastriano might air if he could afford it. He mused on Monday to Lancaster Online about sending Shapiro a “thank you card.”
Shapiro clearly likes his odds in a general election matchup with Mastriano, as the Republican establishment frets about his chances.
Kunal Atit, Davis’ campaign manager, accused Commonwealth of meddling “in support of Sims because they know he would be a liability for our ticket in the fall.”
Commonwealth reported an independent expenditure of $175,560 on Monday for the mailers, which call Sims “the clear choice for Democrats.”
Brouilette did not respond to Clout’s hails. But he’s been tweeting plenty, calling the ads “in-kind contributions” for Mastriano that suggest “Republicans are dumb” and that Shapiro “sooo wants to see Doug in November.”
What does Brouilette have to lose here? Commonwealth’s political action committees have spent $12.8 million this year to support former U.S. Attorney Bill McSwain of West Chester in the Republican primary for governor. One of Commonwealth’s deepest pockets is Pennsylvania’s richest man, Main Line billionaire Jeff Yass.
Mastriano has spent less than $180,000 on television ads and is leading the eight-candidate pack. (A ninth candidate on the ballot, Jake Corman, asked voters Thursday to support former U.S. Rep. Lou Barletta instead of him.)
As for Sims, his camp said he looks forward to campaigning with Shapiro after winning the primary.
“If a conservative organization wants to try to help Brian Sims become the next LG, they should know they’re investing in their own undoing,” Sims spokesperson Brendan McPhillips told Clout.
Kathy Barnette gets Sean Hannity-ed
Kathy Barnette’s surge in polling for the Republican primary for U.S. Senate on Tuesday prompted Fox News host Sean Hannity to air a five-minute takedown of her campaign Wednesday just before an interview with another front-runner he has endorsed, Mehmet Oz.
Oz and David McCormick have each spent more than $11 million of their own money in the race while Barnette is running a low-budget campaign.
Hannity, noting those three are tied in the latest polling, went after Barnette for a series of old tweets that were critical of Trump and suggested that former President Barack Obama was a Muslim. He also noted she lost a 2020 race for Congress by 20 percentage points and has been less than forthcoming about her history as her rise in the polls prompts more scrutiny.
Barnette has been a Fox News pundit, and has been interviewed by Hannity before. He said he likes her but she’s too unvetted in an important race.
Barnette responded on AM990-The Answer Thursday morning, telling host Chris Stigall she has appeared seven times on Hannity’s television and radio shows.
“He talked glowingly about me until Oz came into the picture and then shut me out,” she said. “He had seven different opportunities to ask me any questions he wanted. But, instead, he does this whole thing.”
Hannity’s message seems to have resonated with Trump, a dedicated Fox News viewer, who on Thursday issued a statement saying Barnette can’t win a general election in Pennsylvania with unanswered questions about her past. It was an unusually soft touch for Trump, who added she might have “a wonderful future” in politics once those questions are answered.
Sign shenanigans get a pass
It wasn’t exactly the caper of the century, but that sure looked like John Del Ricci, Democratic leader of Ward 66B, in photos tweeted two weeks ago by Republican state Senate candidate Sam Oropeza that launched a criminal investigation.
Oropeza said in his tweet it “looks alot like” Del Ricci was swiping some of his campaign signs at an intersection in Northeast Philadelphia. He filed a report, confirmed by the Philadelphia Police Department, and detectives met with Oropeza, who is running in a special election Tuesday against Democrat Jimmy Dillon for the 5th District seat.
Del Ricci lawyered up with Chuck Peruto, last year’s Republican candidate for district attorney, who marveled at the idea that cops investigate missing campaign signs. Sounds as if Peruto saw a lot of his own signs go missing on his way to a loss against District Attorney Larry Krasner.
Oropeza, who said signs cost about $3.50 and he’s had 200 to 400 stolen so far, mulled it for a while and then told the detectives he was not pressing charges. Peruto confirmed that.
“That guy woke up on a Sunday morning and decided to chop me at the knees,” Oropeza said. “I’m not going to do that to another man. I’m not that kind of a guy.”
Clout provides often irreverent news and analysis about people, power, and politics.