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Doug Mastriano seeks to mend GOP rifts and raise money to compete with Josh Shapiro

Doug Mastriano, the Republican nominee for governor, is trying to mend GOP rifts to boost fund-raising. It's an awkward fit. He is better known for attacking his party than making peace.

State Sen. Doug Mastriano, the Republican nominee for governor, speaks at a primary night election gathering in Chambersburg on May 17.
State Sen. Doug Mastriano, the Republican nominee for governor, speaks at a primary night election gathering in Chambersburg on May 17.Read moreCAROLYN KASTER / AP

Doug Mastriano, the Republican nominee for governor in Pennsylvania, spent the last week acting as a GOP emissary with a message of party unity.

That’s an awkward fit for the state senator from Franklin County, known just as much for his broadsides at fellow Republicans as his salvos at Democrats.

Mastriano, in an interview Monday with the conservative John Fredericks Radio Show, was asked about the pre-primary Republican establishment move to cast him as “too conservative, too extreme.”

Would the Republican National Committee and the Republican Governors Association now embrace and help fund his campaign?

“I don’t know,” Mastriano said. “I’ve had conversations with both those groups. I’m confident we’ll get support from both.”

RNC spokesperson Rachel Lee told Clout the party is eager to use a “data-driven ground game” to “deliver victory for Republicans up and down the ballot this November.” She didn’t mention Mastriano by name.

RGA spokesperson Chris Gustafson used Clout’s question about Mastriano to link the Democratic nominee, state Attorney General Josh Shapiro, to President Joe Biden’s national economic woes. He also didn’t mention Mastriano by name, saying the RGA “will continue to closely monitor the race.”

Mastriano’s confidence about party unity is born from a recent poll, showing Shapiro with a narrow lead, but still within the margin of error.

“So this actually sent shock waves across the establishment,” Mastriano said Monday. “Because many of them in the elite, leading class, they kind of wrote me off.”

That was Mastriano reverting to his primary style of knocking his own party. His message is less kumbaya, more come-to-Doug.

Mastriano has a strong motivation for mending his party — money. Shapiro had nearly $13.5 million in the bank as of June 6, according to campaign finance reports filed last week, while Mastriano had just more than $397,000.

Speaking Wednesday to News Talk 103.7-FM, a conservative station in his home county, Mastriano noted that he had just won a primary crowded with candidates who vastly outspent him. Shapiro was unopposed in his primary. Again, Mastriano pushed the poll.

“I’m tied with the guy who has all that money,” Mastriano said. “He’s gonna lose. I’m gonna beat him bad.”

He also took that message Saturday to the Erie County Republican Party, appealing to a crowd in a ballroom to get behind him.

“We have to get unified,” Mastriano said. “I’m looking around the room here, and I see lots of beautiful donors.”

Mastriano’s campaign did not respond to requests for comment. In his three appearances since Saturday with fawning talk-show hosts and party activists, Mastriano repeatedly cast himself as a victim of unfair media scrutiny.

“That’s why I don’t give these guys the time of day,” Mastriano said on the radio Thursday. “You know, screw them.”

Dark-money PAC facing more scrutiny in 2023

Remember those controversial mailers last month that attacked three state representatives from Philadelphia as soft on crime just before the primary? The trio — Elizabeth Fiedler, Rick Krajewski, and Chris Rabb — all easily defeated challengers backed by Philly’s Democratic City Committee.

Clout now knows how much the dark-money group that sent the mailers spent on the unsuccessful effort: $142,000. We can’t tell you where that money came from because Mark Gleason, the guy behind the effort, won’t say.

That’s legal in a state legislature race. A 2010 U.S. Supreme Court ruling allows nonprofits to raise money from undisclosed donors and funnel it to political action committees for “independent expenditures” not tied to candidates or campaigns.

But Gleason, who launched the nonprofit A Greater PHL in November to fund the PAC he helped start in May, Greater Expectations PHL, will have to play by Philadelphia’s campaign finance rules as he gears up for the 2023 races for City Council and mayor.

Those races were always seen as his real target, with the state representatives a test run that blew up on Gleason. Half of his nonprofit’s original board resigned, wanting no part of the controversial mailer effort.

Revisions to the city’s campaign finance ordinance in 2015 and 2019 helped tighten some rules on disclosure about nonprofit spending.

PACs must file regular reports disclosing donors. Greater Expectations PHL filed a state report last week, listing A Greater PHL as its lone donor, with $145,000 in two checks cut last month.

But a nonprofit giving $5,000 or more to a PAC within 50 days of an election for a city office must also file a report detailing where the money came from. That report would cover a period of eight months before the election.

Gleason did not respond to Clout’s hails about his 2023 plans.

Last month’s fliers prompted speculation that Gleason, who previously was an occasionally controversial advocate for school choice in the city, was using his new nonprofit and PAC to gather money from conservative donors seeking to be secret players in 2023 Democratic primaries.

Quotable vs. Quotable

All of the Senate candidates I was competing against have endorsed me. The party rapidly unifies.”

Mehmet Oz, the Republican nominee for U.S. Senate, appearing on Fox News on Tuesday, while shrugging off a poll that showed him trailing the Democratic nominee, Lt. Gov. John Fetterman.

No, I have not endorsed Oz. He knows that.”

Kathy Barnette, who finished third in the primary, to CNN on Tuesday.

Clout provides often irreverent news and analysis about people, power, and politics.