If you are running against Gene Stilp, the renegade reformer known for exposing politicians that used public money for campaign purposes, what is politically the worst possible thing you could do?
Ask Republican Congressman Lou Barletta (PA-11)–because it looks like he just made that exact mistake.
Now, there has been a lot of GOP debate-dodging in Pennsylvania this election cycle. Most of the cowardly candidates, however, had the political prowess to right away refuse and do nothing more. Republican Congressman Lou Barletta decided to not only refuse a debate with Democratic challenger Gene Stilp, but to send a staffer to debate Stilp instead.
There’s just one problem: that staffer, Shawn Kelly, doesn’t work for Congressman Barletta’s campaign, but is actually his Legislative Communications Director, who draws a taxpayer salary.
A taxpayer-funded employee can do campaign events by saying that he is off-the-clock. This is frowned upon, but perfectly legal.
However, the legality of such an action becomes increasingly nebulous if that taxpayer-funded staffer drove to the debate in a taxpayer-funded car, or if he used his taxpayer-funded phone to send emails or make calls regarding the political debate, or even if he ate something and filed it as an expense to the taxpayers.
If Kelly in any way charged the taxpayers by using resources issued to him by the United States Congress, that is really bad news for Barletta–especially considering the fact that Gene Stilp is responsible for bringing down this type of behavior in Harrisburg.
Bill DeWeese in is jail for using taxpayer-funded staff for campaign events, and Gene Stilp was a big part of the effort to rid our Commonwealth of such corruption.
So, just where was Congressman Barletta during this debate? When asked by Stilp, Barletta’s staffer refused to say, and again refused to answer when prodded by the audience.
The audience found the lack of communication by the staffer to be especially ridiculous, considering that said staffer is Barletta’s Legislative Communication Director.
During the debate, Stilp stated that he had cancelled a fundraising event to make it out to the debate, and later said in one of his answers that Barletta should be at a debate instead of a fundraiser.
Congressman Barletta’s Communications Director did not object to this characterization of events.
So, it is actually possible that Congressman Barletta was at a fundraiser bringing in cash for his campaign while his taxpayer-salaried staffer was debating his campaign opponent.