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Bompiani campaign facing fines

| Friday, Oct. 31, 2008

The state is fining Democrat Tony Bompiani because he has failed to provide timely finance reports for his 39th Senatorial District campaign since May, a state election official said Thursday.

While campaign finance reports show spending by Bompiani's opponent, Republican Westmoreland County Commissioner Kim Ward, is approaching $1 million, the Democratic nominee has missed the past two deadlines for reporting his campaign's contributions and expenditures.

Jessica Myers, chief of the state Division of Campaign Finance and Lobbying Disclosure, said the state has sent a letter to Bompiani informing him that fines will be levied because the latest report -covering Sept. 16 through Oct. 20 - was not filed by last Friday's deadline. The previous deadline was Sept. 23.

"We haven't seen anything from him since the primary," Myers said.

The late fee is $20 per day for the first six days a candidate is late, and $250 a day after that. Nonpayment eventually results in a referral to the state attorney general, Myers said. Fines cannot be paid from contributions.

Bompiani and his campaign treasurer, Ken Stillwell, said they have delayed filing until state officials provide answers to some reporting questions.

"The voters shouldn't read anything into it," Bompiani said. "We're not trying to hide anything."

"I'd rather take the fine and do it right," he added.

With a barrage of glossy mailers and television commercials paid for by the state Republican and Democratic committees, spending this year is on pace to shatter the record-setting $1.7 million spent four years ago in the same Senate race between two-term incumbent Democrat Allen Kukovich and eventual winner Republican Bob Regola.

Records show that in the 2 1/2 months she has been in the race, Ward and state GOP sources have spent $936,900 -- $4,000 more than Regola and his contributors spent in 2004.

The Kukovich camp spent $772,291 in 2004. Ward entered the race after Regola announced that he would not seek re-election.

Finance reports filed this month for Ward show the state Republican Party has made $371,991 in in-kind contributions for "campaign literature and postage" and the Senate Republican Campaign Committee has made $309,098.53 in in-kind contributions for "media advertising."

Contributions of things of value like advertising, office space or campaign supplies are considered "in-kind."

Ward's campaign reported $86,000 in political donations from the committees of Republican Sens. Pat Browne, Dominic Pileggi, Joe Scarnati, John Pippy, Don White and John Rafferty, and $25,000 from the Senate Republican Campaign Committee.

Stillwell estimated Bompiani's contributions this fall at $350,000, while another $300,000 was funneled into the campaign through in-kind contributions.

Bompiani's committee has spent about $296,000 this fall, Stillwell said.

Since Oct. 20, Bompiani received a total of $66,500 from Democratic Sens. Mike O'Pake, Vincent Hughes, Anthony Williams, John Wozniak and Sean Logan and $25,000 from the Pennsylvania Democratic Party Campaign 2008 group.

Contributions like those, made after the most recent deadline, are required to be reported within 24 hours.

GOP-paid ads have criticized Bompiani for raising taxes as a Hempfield Area school director, while Democratic committee fliers blame Ward for credit card abuse at the independent Hempfield Township Municipal Authority when Ward was a township supervisor.

"It is an outrageous amount," Ward said of the spending by both sides. "But if (Gov. Ed) Rendell's saying he's going to contribute $3 million for Senate Democrats' (campaigns), we've got to do what we have to do to keep control of this seat."

Bompiani, a Youngwood chiropractor, said he too is stunned by the cost of the campaign.

During a recent AARP debate with Ward in Unity, Bompiani took time in his opening comments to apologize to the audience and radio listeners for the amount of campaign "garbage" constituents find each day in their mailboxes and on TV.

"It's really unbelievable ... it really is. Spending between $2 (million) to $3 million for a seat that pays what ... $70,000 a year?" Bompiani said.

A state senator is paid $76,163 a year.

With the Oct. 18 death of GOP Sen. James Rhoades, Republicans hold a 28-21 majority in the Senate.

Political analyst G. Terry Madonna, director of the Franklin and Marshall College Center for Politics and Public Affairs, said he is not surprised by the money being spent in the district against the backdrop of John McCain fighting an uphill battle to win Pennsylvania's electoral votes.

"If you look around the rest of the regions in the state, Democrats are expected to have a 60-40 edge because of Obama in the presidential election. McCain still has a foothold there in Westmoreland, so the Republicans desperately want to keep that Senate seat, which I think is among one of the few, if any, that may change," Madonna said.

"There's really no Senate race in the Philly area up for grabs, and even if there was, the cost of television advertising there would be prohibitive. But Republicans don't have that big of an edge in the state Senate ... and they are losing voter registration practically everywhere else in the state, so they see that seat as very important," Madonna said.

"Plus, you have the fact that the Republicans just won that seat finally in 2004, and don't want to lose it now," he added.

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