Sestak Violating Campaign Law, Pa. Republicans Say

Philadelphia Inquirer:

Former U.S. Rep. Joe Sestak (D.,Pa.) likes to hold his plans close, saying that he is interested in “public service” but refusing to discuss whether that means he is aiming at the 2014 governor’s race, or the Senate race two years later.

Sestak’s strategic vagueness is illegal, according to the Pennsylvania Republican Party, which has filed a complaint with the Federal Election Commission arguing that since Sestak has raised more than $5,000 in his federal campaign account, he must file a statement of candidacy that describes the office he is seeking. Sestak also should have filed a personal financial disclosure, the complaint says.

From Jan. 1 through March 31, “Friends of Joe Sestak” raised $460,250, according to a quarterly report filed with the FEC. The campaign account, left over from Sestak’s run as Democratic nominee for U.S. Senate in 2010, had been called “Sestak for Senate” until March 23.

Spokesman Edwin Wee said that Friends of Joe Sestak is an exploratory committee, designed for testing the political waters, and the FEC does not require a statement of candidacy or financial disclosure for such organizations.

But even if Sestak has made no decision about what office to seek, it is a violation of federal law to “amass a campaign warchest” during the exploratory phase, the GOP complaint says. FEC regulations say that a person is a candidate if he or she raises “funds in excess of what could reasonably be expected to be used for exploratory activities or undertakes activities designed to amass campaign funds that would be spent after he or she becomes a candidate.”

State Republican Chairman Rob Gleason, who filed the complaint Friday, blasted Sestak in a statement

“How can anyone trust him with more responsibility when he’s proven he can’t get his own affairs in order?” Gleason said. “Joe Sestak should return all funds raised improperly until he tells the public what he’s really up to.”

Sestak lost narrowly to now-Sen. Pat Toomey (R) in 2010, an overwhelmingly Republican election cycle. He reportedly has been laying plans for a rematch with Toomey or to challenge Gov. Corbett, as a growing number of Democrats have declared they are doing.

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