Sunday, October 25, 2009

'If Judicial Candidates Can't Follow Campaign Laws, How Can They Be a Judge?'

Montgomery County Republican Committee Chairman Robert Kerns issued the following press release regarding questionable campaign tactics being used by Democratic candidates for Montco judicial seats:
If Judicial Candidates Can't Follow Campaign Laws, How Can They Be a Judge?

Montgomery County Republican Committee Chairman Robert J. Kerns called on the seven Democratic candidates for the Court of Common Pleas to stop violating the laws governing judicial elections.

The Montgomery County Democratic Committee's candidates are running on a slogan "Judges We Can Believe In."

"The seven of them are attempting to convince voters that they are the best candidates to replace one-third of the entire trial bench in Montgomery County," Kerns said. "Before voters go to the polls on November 3, each of the candidates needs to answer this question: If they can't follow the rules that govern the conduct of judges and candidates for judge, how can voters ever trust them to uphold the laws and protect our citizens?"

The Pennsylvania Judicial Code of Conduct outlines acceptable conduct for candidates running for a judicial office.

"During the course of the campaign, the Democrats have collectively and as individuals engaged in activity that raises serious questions about their ability to follow the rules governing their very candidacies," Kerns said. "In fact, they may be in violation of Canon 7, which would preclude them from serving as judges."

Action #1: Between February 2, 2009 and May 4, 2009, the seven endorsed candidates (Lois Murphy, Michael Shields, Richard Hazz, Cheryl Austin, Ann Thornburg Weiss, Joel Bernbaum and Jeff Lindy) contributed thousands of dollars either personally or through their campaign committee to a newly established Political Action Committee called Montgomery County Democratic Judicial Slate Committee. They then had the money refunded to them or their campaign committee, and the PAC was closed based on the termination report they filed with the Pennsylvania Department of State. While candidates are permitted to contribute to party organizations like the Montgomery County Democratic Committee, they are not permitted to contribute to candidates or other PACs according to Canon 7, Section A (2).

Action #2: As cited in Action #1 above, candidates are prohibited from contributing to other candidates. According to Jeff Lindy's 30-Day Post Primary Report filed with the Pennsylvania Department of State, he contributed a total of $350 to two candidate committees on June 8, 2009.

Action #3: Joel Bernbaum's campaign sent around an email invitation inviting people to a fundraiser for him. Part of the email explicitly asks for support of the other six Democratic candidates. Again, Canon 7, Section A (2) allows candidates to speak on behalf of their running mates but not campaign for them and identify information about them such as party affiliation, including in mass distributions like emails.

Action #4: Cheryl Austin, through her campaign committee, Cheryl Lynne Austin for Judge, distributed a flyer to voters' homes in the primary election that went beyond providing information beyond what appeared on the ballot about the candidates. The flyer listed all of the candidates in ballot order and then provided additional information about each candidate, including party affiliation, their bar association rating, political endorsements, and potentially negative information about one fellow Democrat. This flyer violates Canon 7, Section A (2) because she took the extra step to paint in a negative light to voters other candidates for the same office.

"The actions by all seven of the Democratic candidates call into question their personal judgment and integrity as candidates, and they leave voters wondering how they can be trusted to decide cases based on the law when the vagrantly violate the laws governing how they should conduct their campaigns," said Kerns. "The Democratic ticket has a lot of experience trying cases in Philadelphia yet they want to be judges in Montgomery County. Residents of the county deserve better than Philadelphia style politics and meaningless slogans in this election."

Originally posted at THE CENTRIST

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