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Robocalls, site incense legislator

| Tuesday, Oct. 1, 2013, 11:40 p.m.

HARRISBURG — Someone is deceiving taxpayers through an anonymous website that portrays Rep. Daryl Metcalfe as a bigot and a hypocrite on state spending, the Butler County Republican said on Tuesday.

Metcalfe protested “robocalls” made to people in his Cranberry-based district that directed them to a website titled “The Real Daryl Metcalfe.”

The criticism by an unknown party is “deceptive, misleading and libelous,” he said.

With a Burger King crown superimposed on a Metcalfe headshot, the website begins:

“Hello taxpayers. Rarely does one find a politician quite like Pennsylvania State Rep. Daryl Metcalfe. Sure, it is easy to find bigoted, hate-spewing, egotistical people in all walks of life, but Daryl has a well-earned reputation for out-hating and out-spewing nearly every person in the Commonwealth.

“But what really gets Daryl's blood pumping? Wasteful government spending!”

Calling Metcalfe “King of the Whoppers,” the website suggests Metcalfe loves eating at Burger King at taxpayers' expense and treats his staff to meals there. The website lists numerous expenditures, such as $154,000 in per diems, the food and lodging payments for the legislative session, often without listing the period covered. It says he spent more than $50,000 on state-paid vehicles.

Metcalfe, 50, elected in 1998, said he didn't know what period the per-diem total referred to and said he doesn't drive a state-paid car.

“I haven't had a state vehicle in years,” Metcalfe said.

The website says he earns $82,000 a year; legislators are paid $83,802.

A link on the page to a portion of Metcalfe's expenses runs from January 2010 through the end of this June.

Noting his affinity for burgers and for coffee from Starbucks, the site says: “There's not a bill small enough for Metcalfe to pick up himself.”

Metcalfe said there are numerous small expenses for which he doesn't seek reimbursement. It's legitimate for his staff to be reimbursed for meals when traveling, and eating at Burger King is relatively cheap, Metcalfe said.

When a reader clicks on a link to “contact” the website, the response is that the “link appears to be broken.”

Anonymous political attacks and phone calls during elections aren't new. The use of websites to mount such attacks is a more recent phenomenon, said Christopher Borick, a political science professor at Muhlenberg College in Allentown.

Borick said he understands the frustrations of politicians attacked anonymously.

“They want to say, ‘Hey, if you have a problem with me, I'd be happy to debate it and argue with you in public,' ” Borick said.

Metcalfe over the years “courted controversy” by taking certain positions and making inflammatory statements, Borick said.

“There isn't necessarily anything scandalous about this (website),” said Wes Leckrone, a political science professor at Widener University. Some statements on the site prompt Leckrone to believe its author may be a Republican. One such statement, Leckrone said, is that Metcalfe “talks like a conservative but spends like Obama.”

Top Republican officials in Harrisburg said they were not aware of anyone in the party going after Metcalfe on the Internet.

“Based on the content of the site, it seems that the anonymous deceivers disagree with me on many issues,” Metcalfe said. The issues include gun control, the state's ban on gay marriage, Medicaid expansion and a bill to raise transportation revenue, Metcalfe said.

“There are many powerful special interests who are not accustomed to having anyone stop their ability to have government pick the taxpayers' pockets on their behalf,” he said.

Brad Bumsted is Trib Total Media's state Capitol reporter. Reach him at 717-787-1405 and bbumsted@tribweb.com.

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