Barletta Associates Pre-emptively Threaten Democrats With Legal Action

Posted August 6, 2008 at 12:20pm

Business associates of Hazleton Mayor Lou Barletta (R) have issued a rare pre-emptive strike against possible Democratic plans to use their troubled past to smear the Republican in his race against Rep. Paul Kanjorski (D-Pa.).

An attorney representing Paul and Neal DeAngelo sent a letter to the Congressman and the Democratic Congressional Campaign Committee threatening legal action if Democrats use them or their company in campaign materials.

The DeAngelos are principals of the firm DeAngelo Brothers Inc. — one of the region’s largest employers — which bought Barletta’s road-marking and street-line-painting company in 2000. The mayor continues to rent property to DBI and his wife is the company’s treasurer, according to the Pennsylvania Department of State. The DeAngelos have also contributed to Barletta’s campaign,

In 1994, Paul DeAngelo served 18 months in jail for participating in a drug ring in the late 1980s.

The letter threatens legal action if Kanjorski’s campaign or its allies allege the brothers purchased Barletta’s company with illegal money.

“The purpose of his letter is to inform you that such statements are demonstrably false and are considered by DBI and its principles to be defamatory,” attorney Donald Brobst of Rosenn Jenkins & Greenwald LLP wrote in the July 25 letter. “You can be assured that DBI and its principals will immediately take all steps necessary to protect their interests in the event that you or any other persons acting on behalf of the Congressional Campaign of Congressman Kanjorski make false and defamatory statements concerning the purchase of IRM or any other matter.”

Before closing, Brobst writes “this letter should be considered a firm and final warning.”

The DCCC said the letter was unsolicited.

A copy of the letter, provided by the DCCC, states DBI had reason to believe those acting on behalf of Kanjorski had intent to make those statements.

Kanjorski is in his toughest re-election battle to date against Barletta, who became nationally recognized for installing anti-illegal-immigration policies in his small town. Publicly released polls have shown a tight race, despite the district’s Democratic bend.

Barletta campaign manager Vince Galko said he knew the DeAngelo brothers were planning to send a letter, but he said he did not know the specifics of its content.

“Mayor Barletta obviously thinks it’s unfortunate that Paul Kanjorski is dragging the reputation of one the largest employers in northeast Pennsylvania into this race for no other reason than to win an election,” Galko said.

DCCC spokeswoman Carrie James said she could not comment as to whether the committee was planning to use the DeAngelo brothers in the campaign because that falls under the shop’s independent expenditure arm. However, James said the litigious threat signifies more about Barletta’s political operation than the committee.

“This letter raises more questions about Lou Barletta’s campaign than it does about us,” James said. “It’s normal for Republicans to cry foul when the truth about their record is exposed, but they usually wait to hear what we say first. Voters ought to question what’s worrying Lou Barletta’s supporters so much that they resorted to these heavy-handed threats.”

A phone call to the DeAngelo brothers’ office Tuesday afternoon was not returned.