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October 1, 2012

Dems file complaint against GOP candidate

Claim joint fundraiser violates federal campaign regulations

— The Pennsylvania Democratic Party recently filed a complaint with the Federal Election Commission against the Republican candidate in this year’s 12th Congressional District U.S. House of Representatives race.

Keith Rothfus, an Allegheny County lawyer, is scheduled to hold a fundraiser with Tom Smith, the GOP’s U.S. Senate candidate, tonight at The Palace Theatre in Greensburg. An invitation to the event states: “A $500 contribution allocated as you see fit is greatly appreciated.” The candidates apparently have not submitted paperwork for joint fundraising to the FEC, therefore leaving open the question as to how much money will go to each respective general election committee, Rothfus for Congress and Tom Smith for Senate Inc.

The Democrats compared the situation to when the FEC, in a decision labeled MUR 5780, levied a $6,500 civil penalty against former Republican U.S. Sen. Rick Santorum for failing to follow regulations when jointly raising money with the Republican Federal Committee of Pennsylvania at a gathering.

“We request that the Commission promptly and aggressively investigate this clear violation of federal campaign finance regulations and seek any and all injunctive and financial penalties permitted by law and that the committees be required to pay civil penalties similar to those levied by the Commission in MUR 5780,” wrote Aubrey Montgomery, the Pennsylvania Democratic Party’s finance director, in the complaint to the FEC.

Rothfus, who is looking to unseat Rep. Mark Critz, D-Johnstown, can now officially respond to the complaint if he chooses.

Afterward, the commission will determine if there is reason to believe the respondent has committed a violation.

“The Commissioners consider the complaint, the respondent’s reply, relevant committee reports on the public record, and the General Counsel’s analyses and recommendations,” according to the Guidebook for Complainants and Respondents on the FEC Enforcement Process.

No final verdict about whether Rothfus and Smith violated the law will likely be reached before Election Day,

Nov. 6. In Santorum’s case, he was not penalized until May 2008 for his event that occurred on June 14, 2005.

Rothfus’ campaign believes there is no violation.

“An FEC compliance lawyer reviewed the invitation and approved it,” said Rothfus’ campaign manager Jonathan Raso. “I won’t make any further comment on how to run a desperate campaign of distraction when you have to run from your record. Congressman Critz seems to have it down pat.”

This is the second time the Democrats have called upon a federal agency to investigate the Rothfus campaign.

Earlier this year, it was learned Rothfus considers all paid members of his staff to be consultants, instead of employees. As independent contractors, they are responsible for paying all of their own taxes, including the employer portion of Medicare and Social Security. He was the only congressional candidate in southwestern Pennsylvania with a paid staff to use only consultants, as of the second quarter of 2012. The Allegheny County Democratic Committee asked the Internal Revenue Service to investigate Rothfus’ use of all consultants.

“Keith Rothfus recently was caught evading payroll taxes, which forces his workers to pay double the taxes, so it is not surprising that he is failing to follow the law this time (with the fundraiser),” said Mike Mikus, Critz’s campaign manager. “Keith Rothfus needs to realize that the rules even apply to millionaires like him just like they apply to everyone else.”

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