Election ad draws fire in Franklin Regional

Advocates in Franklin: are they political?

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The Westmoreland County Elections Bureau says the district attorney is investigating some residents of Franklin Regional School District who may have violated election law by failing to report advertising expenditures.

A spokeswoman for a district academic boosters group, however, says her organization is "away from the politics" and "we're just pushing forward with our idea of promoting academic values.

"Nobody has yet officially contacted me about the investigation," said Michelle McFall, spokeswoman for the Franklin Area Academic Boosters Tuesday.

Residents with concerns about the possible cuts to the district's academic program formed the boosters in 2012."We're a bipartisan, grass-roots advocacy group," Ms. McFall said. "What we wanted to do was advocate for academic excellence."

Those pursuits included supporting a slate of candidates in the 2013 primary, and the organization took out an ad in a local newspaper before the election. Since then, the group has been the target of complaints that it did not file proper election finance reports. "The district attorney is looking into it right now," said Jim Montini, director of the Election Bureau. "Basically, if you spend money to influence an election, that needs to be reported."

According to the state's Campaign Finance Reporting Law, the group appears to qualify as a political committee under the definition of "any committee, club, association or other group of persons which receives contributions or makes expenditures."

Political committees "must file reports at any election in which it expends money to influence an election," the law states.

Ms. McFall said she is unable to comment about the investigation because of the lack of information provided about it to the Boosters.

The group's objective for the primary, she said, was to give voters a choice in the general election instead of a ballot full of unopposed candidates. She said her group has shifted emphasis since the primary.

Next week's race pits four Republican newcomers: Jeremy Samek, Susan Ilgenfritz, Gregg Neavin and George Harding, against four Democrats who were supported by the group, including incumbents Kimberly Bondi, Dennis Irvine and Paul Scheinert, along with Bobbi Watt-Geer.

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