Fact-checking Pa-9 GOP critiques over campaign cash, past performance

Written by Emily Previti, Keystone Crossroads Reporter | May 3, 2018 9:46 AM
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Pennsylvania's 9th Congressional District includes all of Lebanon, Schuylkill, Columbia and Carbon counties, plus most of Montour, about half of Luzerne and part of Northumberland counties.

(Undated) -- The race for the Republican nomination in Pennsylvania's ninth congressional district is getting heated.

So much so that Schuylkill County Commissioner George Halcovage skipped a debate in Pottsville, despite living and working within 10 minutes of the venue and organizers confirming his attendance.

Halcovage's campaign said he couldn't get there because he was trapped in Lebanon County on the opposite side of the district.

But Halcovage's absence also coincided with the release of a commercial blasting his record by opponent Dan Meuser's campaign.

Halocavage did get raises: this year, his salary went up $1,500 to just under $64,000, which was in line with increases for other commissioners and county row offices.

The video itself also suggests why a tax increase might have been defensible, after a decade of keeping rates flat.

But Scott Uehlinger, a Navy and CIA veteran who's now a Fox News analyst, insisted the ad kept Halcovage away.

Uehlinger an unknown

Uehlinger also confirmed and then skipped the event.

Just a few days earlier, Newsweek had dropped a story about Uehlinger being forced out of the CIA amid "integrity issues."  

The article also quotes a source, whom the reporter contacted at Uehgliner's suggestion, attributing Uehlinger's difficulties at the end of his nearly two-decade tenure to his "right-wing views [that] rubbed people the wrong way." Uehlinger himself bemoaned the "politicization and political correctness" of the intelligence community in an op-ed published over a year ago.

At the next debate, all three candidates were there - and Meuser pounced.

"It's funny to get lectured by a guy who used taxpayer dollars to pay for his wedding in Moldova," Meuser said.

We caught up with Uehlinger later by phone to try to straighten out the details - and couldn't.

Uehlinger initially called the story "lies" from a "left-wing publication."

Newsweek also quoted Uehlinger as saying his wedding was related to the operation and agency management had approved any covered expenditures. When reminded of this, Uehlinger said he'd stand by his comments to the news site, but declined to elaborate because he was "getting into the area of discussing a classified item."

"The very fact that anonymous sources ... are willing to leak classified information, it sounds a little bit familiar," Uehlinger said. "This is a pattern we are seeing in our government these days, where people leak classified information to try to injure another party."

Meuser's second attempt

Meanwhile, Meuser - who was state Revenue Secretary during Republican Tom Corbett's administration - has been fending off his opponents' critiques about living in a different district.

Under the new congressional map implemented in February, Meuser's house is in the eighth district, 1.5 miles from the border of the ninth district. But technically, that doesn't prohibit him from seeking office in the ninth.

 "If my opponent has a problem with that, ... I ask: 'What other problems with the constitution does he have?'" Meuser said. "'Cause three paragraphs after 'We the people', define what you need to have in order to run for congress. And I meet all those requirements with flying colors."

Meuser also ran to represent a district he didn't live in during his first congressional bid in 2008.

Halcovage has made his own residency a major selling point, playing up knowledge of the entire district acquired by working on multi-county initiatives while commissioner.

But he and Uehlinger also questioned donations to Democrats by Meuser and through a PAC tied to his company, motorized wheelchair manufacturer Pride Mobility.

Democrats have received 22 percent of the company PAC's $336,000 donations since 2002, according to WITF's analysis of campaign finance data tabulated by the National Institute on Money in State Politics.

Just 3.3 percent of Meuser's $286,000 in individual contributions went to Democrats during the same timeframe, the analysis showed.

"If we use this logic," Meuser says, "then none of us would've voted for President Trump."

There also are a couple issues, besides residency, that dogged Meuser during his last congressional bid that are coming up again.

One, was Pride Mobility mistakenly employing undocumented immigrants back in the '90s. The company quickly fired these workers upon discovering their status, according to Meuser's campaign website, and has since used the E-Verify system to authenticate employees' citizenship.

Another is the company's $80,000 fine for kickback violations stemming from a Medicaid fraud investigation.

Published in Lebanon, News

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