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Lou Barletta, out of Congress but still into immigration policy, wants to build that wall | Clout

Former U.S. Rep. Lou Barletta of Hazleton is raising money to help elect candidates who support President Donald Trump's ambition to build a border wall between the United States and Mexico. Barletta says he will also support private border wall construction.

Former U.S. Rep. Lou Barletta (right), seen here at an August 2018 campaign rally in Wilkes-Barre with President Donald Trump (left), has a new political action committee to help Trump build a wall on the United States border with Mexico.
Former U.S. Rep. Lou Barletta (right), seen here at an August 2018 campaign rally in Wilkes-Barre with President Donald Trump (left), has a new political action committee to help Trump build a wall on the United States border with Mexico.Read more / File Photograph

Former U.S. Rep. Lou Barletta, a top Pennsylvania surrogate for President Donald Trump’s 2020 reelection bid, is trying to combine the thing he is best known for — fierce opposition to undocumented immigration — with something his political brand is not known for — fund-raising.

Barletta, a Hazleton Republican who did not seek a fifth term last year while unsuccessfully challenging Sen. Bob Casey, is now out of public life for the first time in two decades. But he plans to keep pushing tough immigration policies through his new Leaders Only Unite political action committee, known as LOU PAC.

The PAC, seeded with leftover funds from Barletta’s Senate run, will support tough-on-immigration candidates and private construction of a new border wall, which Trump promised in 2016 would be paid for by Mexico. As president, Trump has repeatedly stumbled while seeking border-wall construction money from Congress, though the U.S. Supreme Court recently ruled he could dip into other funds to get started.

Barletta last week promised to take the first $2,500 donated and make a matching contribution to a private campaign to build a border wall on private land.

LOU PAC, which had $141,842 in the bank as of July 1, gave $5,000 in donations to six campaigns this year. The PAC also paid Barletta’s wife $2,200 per month from January to June for rent in a Hazleton office building they own.

Barletta made his border-wall vow at the “Symposium at the Wall,” a gathering of conservatives in New Mexico that drew Donald Trump Jr. and former presidential adviser Steve Bannon.

That event was sponsored by We Build the Wall, a GoFundMe project that has raised money for the wall and stoked controversy about its financial practices and local land permitting issues.

“The mission is going to be securing the borders and standing up for the rule of law,” Barletta said of LOU PAC. “I had a lot of donors nationwide who have supported me over the years for my positions on border security, and I want to make a difference.”

Republicans, however, have long scoffed (mostly privately, but not always) at Barletta’s fund-raising abilities. His 2002 House campaign still had debts until relatively recently. And as a sitting congressman with the president’s support, he raised $7.4 million for his challenge to Casey.

By contrast, Democrat Katie McGinty brought in nearly $17 million for her 2016 run against Republican Sen. Pat Toomey, and she had never held elected office.

Barletta said he’s not looking to run for office again — just hoping to help the cause.

Democrats and protesters tag-team Joe Biden in Detroit with … attacks on Barack Obama’s immigration record

Who knew when former Vice President Joe Biden stood on the Benjamin Franklin Parkway in May to rally supporters — and opened his presidential headquarters in July in Center City — that a primary tactic to oppose him would be assailing his record with former President Barack Obama?

But there was Biden on stage for a Democratic debate in Detroit on Wednesday evening, taking shots from other candidates about Obama’s deportation of undocumented immigrants. The crowd got in on the act, too.

The Cosecha Movement took credit after the debate for protesters who tried to drown out Biden as he spoke about deportations. That group, in a statement, noted it also sent protesters who sat in the lobby of Biden’s headquarters in mid-July waving signs and chanting about immigration. Seven people were arrested and then released in that protest.

The Pew Research Center last year found more Americans said Obama was the best president in their lifetimes than any other former White House occupant.

Biden, who has emphasized his link to Obama in his campaign and during Wednesday’s debate, on Thursday, pushed back on the criticism, calling it “absolutely bizarre” for anyone to suggest their record is “comparable” to Trump’s.

Independents file to run for Philadelphia City Council but not for mayor

Mayor Jim Kenney’s smooth ride to reelection got smoother Thursday when three would-be candidates who had said they would run independent campaigns to unseat him failed to turn in nominating petitions by the 5 p.m. Aug. 1 deadline.

Not even T. Milton Street Sr., the former state senator and brother of ex-Mayor John F. Street, showed up, despite telling Clout last week that he would.

That leaves only Republican Billy Ciancaglini in Kenney’s way. So far, the mayor has more or less refused to acknowledge his GOP foe’s existence.

There was more interest in City Council’s seven at-large seats, two of which are reserved for independent or minority-party candidates. Republicans have traditionally held those seats, but progressives are making third-party bids to take them from the GOP.

They include former Democrat Sherrie Cohen, now running under the “A Better Council” banner, and Working Families Party candidates Kendra Brooks and Nicolas O’Rourke, all of whom filed more than double the minimum number of the 3,226 signatures required to appear on the ballot.

The other at-large candidates who filed to run this week are Libertarian Maj Toure, Term Limits Philadelphia candidate Steve Cherniasky, and independents Joe Cox and Clarc King.

Two district Council members drew independent challengers as well. Councilman Curtis Jones Jr. will run against Libertarian Matt Baltsar and independent Karla Cruel, and Councilwoman Cindy Bass is up against independent Greg Paulmier. Neither faces a Republican challenger.