During a hard-fought primary battle, state Rep. Ken Ruffing insisted that he donated a controversial pay raise to an autism organization he would not identify. Now the legislator says he actually used the money for his son, who is autistic.
The West Mifflin Democrat, who lost his re-election bid to a political newcomer campaigning in part against the pay raise, said two weeks ago that he gave the money, approximately $4,000 in all, to an autism organization. But he refused to identify it despite claiming to have documentation.
In interviews Thursday, Mr. Ruffing, a four-term incumbent, acknowledged that was not the case.
"I gave it to my son Alec. I have to send him to a special school with special needs. And that's where I spent the money. And that's the truth," he told KDKA-TV.
In a separate interview with the McKeesport Daily News, the legislator said the money went to pay his son's tuition. According to the newspaper, Alec currently is enrolled at St. Colman Catholic School in Turtle Creek.
While acknowledging to the Daily News that he should have "come clean" earlier about the actual use of the pay raise, he insisted he "did not lie to the public about this." In the KDKA interview, Mr. Ruffing also justified his earlier statements by saying that "the autism society is Alec Ruffing."
Repeated attempts to reach Mr. Ruffing yesterday were unsuccessful. At his home in West Mifflin, a woman said from a window that the legislator wasn't there and ordered a reporter off the property.
In the primary election, Mr. Ruffing was defeated by political newcomer William C. Kortz II, who was affiliated with PA CleanSweep, the nonpartisan group formed to oust General Assembly incumbents who accepted the late-night pay raise, which was later repealed.
Mr. Ruffing ended up finishing third in the unofficial returns behind Mr. Kortz and C.L. "Jay" Jabbour, a former West Mifflin and Allegheny County Council member.
Mr. Ruffing originally made his claim about the pay raise going to an autism organization in response to Mr. Jabbour, who had expressed skepticism about Mr. Ruffing's assertion that he gave the money to charity.
In Thursday's interviews, Mr. Ruffing also was upset about the release of records that showed that police had visited his home more than a dozen times in the last year.
He said he had asked the state attorney general's office to investigate the release of the information.
Mark Belko can be reached at email@example.com or 412-263-1262.