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CUTLER: Taxpayer Resources Shouldn’t Be Used for Campaign Events

Taxpayer resources and state employees should not be used for campaign events. Unfortunately, as the nation moves ever closer to what is sure to be a contentious general election in the fall, we have seen a continued pattern of state employees and state taxpayer-funded resources being used in furtherance of campaign events.

Since taking office, I have always drawn a significantly higher standard for the separation of campaigning and politics from my official duties and staff. And the reasons cannot be clearer.

I was first elected to office on the heels of the legislative pay raise and during a time when elected members of the General Assembly and taxpayer-paid staff were being sent to jail for inappropriately mixing campaigning and official duties.

The lesson from the public at the ballot box and from law enforcement was clear: do not mix political activity with taxpayer assets or there will be consequences.

Fast forward to 2024, and the lessons of the past seem to be forgotten by some in the urgency of the political environment before us.

In just the last few weeks, we have seen repeated instances of state taxpayer resources going to the assistance of campaign events held at the State Capitol. All specifically in furtherance of the Biden-Harris reelection campaign.

This has led to Pennsylvania House Democrats, who are heavily involved in the planning and performance of these events, then parlaying the campaign events into political theatre in the House chamber that only contributes to the gridlock and polarization we are experiencing in our state legislature.

When I addressed this issue with the secretary of the Department of General Services, whose department is responsible for approving and assisting groups holding events at the Capitol, I was told there is nothing wrong with the use of departmental assets and employees—all paid for by the taxpayers—in helping run campaign events on State Capitol grounds.

It seems apparent, if not just common sense, that the use of state taxpayer assets, including employees in the official conduct of their duties, is grossly inappropriate and unethical.

Given the stance of the department, and the continued and repeated campaign events at the State Capitol organized by House Democrats, I decided to take legislative action to clearly make the use of taxpayer-funded resources deployed in furtherance of political campaign events expressly unlawful.

Recently, I filed amendments to legislation running in the House and filed a standalone bill to place civil penalties between $2,500 and $25,000 on public officials and/or state employees who authorize the use of state taxpayer resources and/or employees in furtherance of political campaign objectives.

In addition, they would be barred from state employment for a period of not less than two years.

It is axiomatic that official, taxpayer-funded resources should not be used in furtherance of political campaign objectives—especially with the contentiousness of our politics of today.

I hope my colleagues on the other side of the aisle will join me in recognizing this and in taking action to stop the practice entirely.