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Candidate McClelland's ad for her business riles Beaver County GOP

| Wednesday, May 7, 2014, 12:16 a.m.
Erin McClelland of Harrison is a Democratic contender in the 12th Congressional District.
Erin McClelland of Harrison is a Democratic contender in the 12th Congressional District.

A business advertisement featuring a congressional hopeful provoked the chair of the Republican Committee of Beaver County to cry foul to the Federal Election Commission.

Erin McClelland, Democratic primary contender in Pennsylvania's 12th Congressional District, appears in a television spot for Arche Wellness in Blawnox, the nonprofit drug and alcohol addiction treatment facility she founded in 2002.

In the 15-second spot, McClelland speaks straight to the camera, her face on-screen for all but the last three seconds. Her name appears for the first eight seconds.

Nowhere does the ad describe McClelland as a political candidate, or mention a campaign.

But Megan Carpenter, chairwoman of the Republican Committee of Beaver County, said she sees an ulterior motive.

“It smacked, to me, of being the wrong time,” Carpenter said.

She filed a complaint with the FEC on April 3, citing violations of laws limiting the value of in-kind contributions and advertisements 90 days before primaries.

Chuck Pascal, McClelland's campaign attorney, said a response will be submitted to the FEC within several days. He said this was an attack from the Tea Party, which is intimidated by the potential of a female moderate candidate who owns a business.

Carpenter, involved in local Republican politics for about three decades, said she saw the ad on Fox on a Sunday morning.

“She's using a nonprofit for her candidacy, and that's just plain wrong,” Carpenter said.

McClelland, of the Natrona Heights section of Harrison, is running in the May 20 primary against Col. John Hugya of Somerset County. The winner likely will face Rep. Keith Rothfus, R-Sewickley, in the November general election.

The district, redrawn in 2010, is a horizontal slice of Western Pennsylvania, stretching from the state line in Beaver County to past Johnstown.

Carpenter said she informed the Rothfus campaign of the advertisement but filed the complaint herself as “a concerned citizen.”

McClelland appeared in Arche ads before, Pascal said. This ad buy is for spots in the middle of the night — hardly prime time for audiences rich with potential voters.

“It's designed to harass and waste our time,” Pascal said of the complaint. “It has no merit and it's frivolous.”

Lawmakers and candidates have the ability to advertise their businesses if the business predates their campaigns, Pascal said, citing U.S. Rep. Mike Kelly, R-Butler, who owns car dealerships.

“The ad is promoting the program at Arche Wellness, not Erin McClelland's congressional campaign,” Pascal said.

The Cook Political Report considers the district a “solid Republican” contender in this year's elections.

Rothfus has raised $1.4 million for his campaign, according to finance reports through the end of March. McClelland raised nearly $150,000 and Hugya, around $51,500.

Melissa Daniels is a Trib Total Media staff writer.

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