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Auditor general hopefuls make case

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Wednesday, April 18, 2012

HARRISBURG -- The Republican Party's endorsed candidate for auditor general emphasizes his 29 years as a Certified Public Accountant and his opponent, a former college professor, stresses his independence from the party and the governor.

Rep. John Maher, 53, of Upper St. Clair, who founded a Pittsburgh auditing firm, said he would be the first CPA to hold the office often called the state's fiscal watchdog. Government and legal credentials marked the resumes of previous auditors general.

"So far as I can tell, there's never been a CPA as auditor general," Maher said. "Pennsylvanians deserve an auditor general who knows how to audit."

Frank Pinto, 68, of Middle Paxton in Dauphin County, is former president and CEO of the Pennsylvania Association of Community Bankers. He thinks the office has plenty of CPAs. Pinto said he's not beholden to anyone, and he noted that Gov. Tom Corbett pushed for a slate at the Republican State Committee in January that included Maher.

"I am going to watch after your money as if it's my money," Pinto said.

He criticizes Maher and Rep. Eugene DePasquale -- a York Democrat running unopposed for auditor general -- for seeking re-election to their House seats while running for auditor general. Pinto said he thinks the state should require officials to resign their seats when seeking others.

Maher said he spoke with many constituents who supported his choice to run for both posts.

Pinto portrays himself as an outsider, but Maher said Pinto "has been working the hallways of the Capitol since I was in high school. He's been a lobbyist for 25 years."

Pinto said he registered as a lobbyist in order to remove any question about his activities, but he maintains his primary duty was not lobbying. The bankers association employed professionals for that purpose, he said.

At a debate in January before state Republicans, Pinto criticized Maher for voting for the 2005 legislative pay raise and a 2001 pension boost. Maher told the GOP gathering he never accepted a nickel of the pay raise, which lawmakers repealed that same year because of voter opposition.

Maher has taught auditing at Cambridge University. In 1989, he co-founded Maher Duessell, which specializes in auditing nonprofit organizations and governments. Maher no longer is connected to the Downtown firm. He has served in the state House since 1997.

Pinto was an American history professor at La Salle College and an adjunct professor at the University of Pennsylvania and Villanova University. He worked as a legislative staffer in Harrisburg and was active in politics as a ward leader and committeeman.

DePasquale, 40, an attorney, pledged to be an "independent watchdog" if elected. Like Maher, DePasquale said his constituents approved seeking both offices.

"Most people have said, 'Why would you give up one job before you have another one?' " said DePasquale, a Pittsburgh native who attended Central Catholic High School.

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