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Ex-Rep. Tim Murphy directs campaign donation to help Republican Rick Saccone

February 6, 2018 GMT

Disgraced Republican Congressman Tim Murphy’s political career might have ended in October, but his campaign cash is still out supporting candidates in the district he once represented, financial filings show.

Rick Saccone, the Republican Party’s nominee to replace Murphy, is among the candidates benefiting, Westmoreland County Republican Committee Chairman Michael Korns told the Tribune-Review on Monday.

Murphy’s campaign donated $5,000 to the committee in December, according to Federal Election Commission filings.

“When it was given, who we would be using it for would be Rick Saccone,” Korns said, adding, “When Tim sent it, he did say, ‘Use it however you’d see fit, but I think it’d be best to help Rick.’ ”

Murphy, reached by phone Monday, said he is no longer taking calls and hung up.

“Tim Murphy’s contribution to the Westmoreland County Republican Committee has no connection to Rick Saccone’s campaign,” said Saccone campaign spokesman Pat Geho in an email. “Rick has not accepted any contributions from Mr. Murphy, and he urges the Westmoreland County Party to immediately return the donation in question.”

Saccone, 59, a state representative from Elizabeth Township, is running against Democrat Conor Lamb, 33, to replace Murphy in the 18th Congressional District representing parts of Westmoreland, Allegheny, Washington and Greene counties.

Saccone’s campaign had raised more than $214,000 by the end of last year, while Lamb’s had raised about $560,000, according to campaign records.

Korns, who received $1,000 from Murphy to support his campaign for state representative, said he had no reservations about accepting the money.

Murphy resigned Oct. 21 over reports he encouraged a mistress to have an abortion.

“He made a very bad decision, and a bad mistake, and he resigned, which is the right thing to do,” Korns said. “But that doesn’t change the fact that he can do with his money what he thinks is best.”

Murphy’s campaign disbursed more than $182,000 from Oct. 21 through the end of December, according to year-end campaign finance filings.

The money went to donors in the form of refunds, paid for consulting and legal fees and covered expenses such as phone bills and food in addition to going to candidates and committees.

The campaign ended the year with $1.28 million on hand.

Candidates maintain control of campaign funds after they leave office and commonly give some of the money to other campaigns, said Chris Borick, a professor of political science at Muhlenberg College in Allentown.

Candidates accepting money from someone with a tarnished reputation have to weigh whether the baggage that can accompany it is worth it, Borick said.

“It will come with some strings, for certain, but maybe not enough to dissuade the party from using it right now in an environment where it’s needed,” he said.

Murphy’s campaign also gave $5,000 to the Washington County Republican Committee, which spokesman Dave Ball said could support several local candidates, including Saccone.

“I don’t particularly see it as tainted money,” Ball said. “He has campaign money, and he’s willing to support his party. And I think that it’s perfectly legitimate, and we appreciate any help he can give us.”

The filings show a Dec. 20 disbursement of $15,000 to the Pennsylvania Senate Republican Campaign Committee.

The committee’s executive director, Tracy Hall, said she hadn’t received a check from the campaign. She said she couldn’t determine if the committee would accept a check from Murphy without having received one yet.

Wes Venteicher is a Tribune-Review staff writer. Reach him at 412-380-5676, wventeicher@tribweb.com or via Twitter @wesventeicher.