English Raps Toomey

Posted June 10, 2003 at 6:35pm

A member of the Pennsylvania delegation on Tuesday called on home-state Republican Rep. Pat Toomey to return campaign contributions he received from GOP House Members in the past cycle instead of using the funds in his bid to unseat Sen. Arlen Specter (R).

Rep. Phil English (R) fired off a two-page letter to Toomey requesting that the Congressman refund more than $100,000 in donations from his House colleagues and give the remaining money he transferred from his House committee to his Senate campaign earlier this year to the Republican Party.

“Many Republicans do not think it is fair or reasonable that you should attempt to benefit from over $450,000 spent by the Republican Party and your House colleagues last cycle to finance a race for the U.S. Senate against a Republican incumbent,” English wrote in the letter dated June 10.

Toomey, who is self-term-limited and retiring at the end of this Congress, announced in February that he would challenge Specter in 2004.

The letter notes that in the previous cycle, Toomey received more than $100,000 from House Members to help fund what he claimed to be a difficult rematch against former United Steelworkers local President Ed O’Brien (D). He eventually beat O’Brien, who had run more competitively in 2000, 57 percent to 43 percent.

Toomey raised approximately $1.6 million during the cycle and ended up spending a little more than $1 million on the race, leaving him with plenty of resources in the kitty.

The letter charges that Toomey’s campaign canceled $616,000 worth of ad buys in the expensive Philadelphia media market in late September and early October while the state and national party continued to spend on his behalf.

Those funds, the letter states, could have been spent helping then-Rep. George Gekas (R-Pa.) or working to defeat Rep. Joe Hoeffel (D-Pa.). Gekas was narrowly defeated in a Member-versus-Member matchup with Rep. Tim Holden (D), while Hoeffel edged out his Republican opponent with just 51 percent of the vote.

In the letter, English notes that Toomey transferred roughly $560,000 from his re-election account to his Senate committee, after repaying himself $100,000 in personal loans during the cycle.

“I strongly urge you to do the right thing,” the letter states. “I ask that you refund the unused campaign funds back to your Republican House colleagues who stood by you in what you claimed to be your time of need, and to transfer the remaining unused funds to the Republican Party.”

At press time, Toomey’s office had not responded to an inquiry seeking comment on English’s letter.

According to PoliticalMoneyLine.com, Toomey received almost $128,000 in contributions from political action committees operated by other politicians during the 2002 cycle.

All but $6,433 of that total came from the PACs of House incumbents at the time, including $10,000 contributions from the leadership committees of Speaker Dennis Hastert (R-Ill.) and now-Majority Leader Tom DeLay (R-Texas), who was then Majority Whip. Hastert also gave Toomey $2,000 from his personal campaign fund.

Toomey also received $16,000 from the PACs or campaign committees of Pennsylvania Republicans, including $1,000 from English, who served as a member of the National Republican Congressional Committee’s Incumbent Retention Committee in the previous cycle.

Sen. Rick Santorum (R-Pa.), who is backing Specter in the primary even though he is more closely aligned with Toomey ideologically, gave $5,000 from his PAC to the Congressman in 2002.

English has endorsed Specter in the primary, and some Toomey allies were quick to dismiss the letter as a political ploy.

“This is obviously a stunt,” said one Pennsylvania Republican, who declined to be identified.

When contacted Tuesday, aides to several Members of the delegation declined to weigh in on the letter or whether their bosses would back English’s request and seek to have Toomey return contributions.

The letter is the first public sign of strain caused by the primary within the state’s Republican delegation.

To date four Keystone State House Members have endorsed Specter in the race, while at least two, GOP Reps. Melissa Hart and Joe Pitts, have indicated they will remain neutral.

A spokesman for Rep. John Peterson (R) said his boss would be endorsing at some point in the near future.