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GOP Bill Would Stop State Employees From Working on Political Events on Taxpayer Dime

Harrisburg, we have a problem.

House Republican Leader Bryan Cutler—and others—noticed state employees appear to be working at Democratic campaign functions while being paid by taxpayers.

Cutler (R-Lancaster) sent a polite letter to state Secretary Reggie McNeil with the Department of General Services, citing some incidents.

One was a rally for President Joe Biden’s reelection on the front of the Capitol steps on June 5. Another was on June 11, where members of the Legislative Black Caucus and Democratic legislative leaders from both he House and Senate held a press event to launch  the  “Black Pennsylvanians for Biden-Harris Coalition.”

DGS employees worked at both events, said Cutler.

Eric Veronikis, a spokesperson for the state General Services, justified the workers’ presence.

“DGS staff help with logistics for hundreds of public events a year within the Capitol Complex – including but not limited to various tours, public and community events, press conferences, weddings, charity events, art presentations, and concerts – and the use of state resources is routinely used for these events in the Capitol. DGS acts in accordance with Pennsylvania Code Chapters 85 and 86 governing the Exercise of First Amendment Rights on Commonwealth Property and the use of the Capitol Complex for every event hosted,” Veronikis said.

Pennsylvania Code Chapter 86 – which governs the public areas of the Capitol Complex and has been in effect since October 1996 – does not differentiate between political and non-political events,” he said.

“Chapter 86 says, ‘At no time will the application or administration of these policies and procedures be influenced or affected by considerations of age, sex, race, national origin, handicap, religion, [or] partisan politics.’ DGS does not take into consideration which entities are linked to the organizers of any scheduled event within the Capitol Complex.

He added, “The Capitol Complex has regularly hosted public events for various groups with a wide range of political affiliations. From hosting legislative sessions to offering spaces for Capitol tours and public community events, DGS will continue to work with our colleagues in the General Assembly to create a welcoming environment.”

Now Cutler is introducing a bill to make it illegal for state agencies and other governmental organizations to provide assistance for campaign events that advocate for the election or defeat of political candidates.

“As the nation moves closer to a heated general election, we have seen repeated instances of state taxpayer resources going to the assistance of campaign events held at the state Capitol. The use of state taxpayer assets, including employees in the official conduct of their duties, is grossly inappropriate and unethical,” Cutler said.

According to the legislation, any public official or state government employee who approves an expenditure or use of taxpayer assets in furtherance of a campaign event will be subject to a civil penalty of between $2,500 and $25,000 in addition to being barred from state government employment for a period of not less than two years.

House Speaker Joanna McClinton (D-Philadelphia) declined to comment. House Majority Leader Rep. Matt Bradford (D-Montgomery) did not respond to requests for comment.

“Pennsylvania has an unfortunate history of taxpayer resources and taxpayer paid employees going to jail because they inappropriately mixed campaigning and official duties,” Cutler said. “I have long stood for a bright line between campaigns and official business and am hopeful the rest of my colleagues will join me in recognizing that taxpayer resources should in absolutely no way be used for campaign purposes.”

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