The Republican nominee for Pennsylvania governor used campaign donations to pay for a lawyer to represent him to the House committee investigating the Jan. 6, 2021, attack on the US Capitol, records show.
Doug Mastriano, the far-right state senator who is a key figure in the 2020 election-denial conspiracy movement, paid “Parlatore” $ 10,000 for “legal consulting” on March 3, according to recent campaign finance filings reviewed by HuffPost. The listed address for Parlatore matches that of a law firm founded by Timothy Parlatore, who has represented Mastriano in his dealings with the Jan. 6 committee.
The committee subpoenaed Mastriano in February, seeking documents related to his attempt to send fake electors to Washington in order to overturn the results of the 2020 election.
Mastriano’s use of campaign funds to pay Parlatore likely does not violate state or federal campaign finance laws, but it still raises ethical questions. Mastriano previously used funds from his state Senate campaign to charter buses to Washington for his supporters to attend the Jan. 6, 2021, rally that turned into the insurrection.
“Any public official using campaign funds to support a coup is doing something unethical, even if it does not necessarily violate the letter of law,” said Brendan Fischer, deputy executive director at Documented, a watchdog group monitoring money in politics, told HuffPost.
Parlatore told HuffPost in an email that the payment was both legal and ethical.
As Mastriano’s lawyer, he has attempted to discredit the House committee’s investigation into the historic insurrection, which left multiple people dead and caused over $ 30 million in damage.
“This is just a partisan pre-election stunt,” Parlatore told The Philadelphia Inquirer of the committee after turning over some documents related to the subpoena earlier this month. “Really, they’re not interested in getting any information from Mastriano. This is a fishing expedition where they were hoping he would refuse so they could imply he has something to hide. ”
Nevertheless, Parlatore told HuffPost that Mastriano has “fully complied” with the committee’s subpoena.
It remains to be seen what other action the House Jan. 6 committee might take regarding Mastriano.
Mastriano was a major supporter of then-President Donald Trump’s effort to overturn the results of the 2020 election. Trump rewarded him with an endorsement in last month’s GOP gubernatorial primary in Pennsylvania, helping him trounce his opponents.
“There is no one in Pennsylvania who has done more, or fought harder, for Election Integrity than State Senator Doug Mastriano,” Trump said in a statement announcing the endorsement. “He has revealed the Deceit, Corruption, and outright Theft of the 2020 Presidential Election, and will do something about it.”
After President Joe Biden won the key battleground state of Pennsylvania in November 2020 by over 80,000 votes, Mastriano – citing false claims of election fraud – attempted to push the Republican-controlled state legislature to overturn the results by replacing its electors with Trump loyalists, who would have then declared Trump the winner.
Also in November 2020, Mastriano organized a state Senate hearing in Gettysburg – part of his district – to push false claims of election fraud. Trump called into the hearing, and Rudy Giuliani, Trump’s disgraced personal attorney, attended in person. That same day, Mastriano traveled to the White House to attend a meeting with Trump about the election, but was forced to leave after receiving a positive COVID test.
According to documents turned over in response to the Jan. 6 committee subpoena, Mastriano spent $ 3,354 to rent buses to send 130 supporters to the “stop the steal” demonstration that developed into the attack on the Capitol. Mastriano attended the event himself, but said he and his wife kept their distance from rioters attacking police barricades. A few months later, however, video footage unearthed by online sleuths showed Mastriano much closer to the fracas than he had previously claimed.
And just last week, NBC News reported that a newly surfaced image showed “Mastriano holding up his cellphone as rioters in front of the mob face off with police at the Capitol steps.” Reconstructed timelines indicated the photo of Mastriano holding up his phone was taken around the same time rioters breached a police line and charged toward the Capitol, NBC reported.
“Every day, more is uncovered about Doug Mastriano’s involvement in the deadly Jan. 6 insurrection – including new footage that showed Mastriano recording rioters as they attacked law enforcement, ”Sam Newton, a spokesperson for the Democratic Governors Association, said in a statement Thursday.
“Mastriano’s footage could be important evidence in the investigation into January 6th, and it’s further evidence proving that Mastriano lied about his involvement and stood with rioters as they attacked the Capitol,” Newton added. “It’s long overdue for Mastriano to release the footage and finally come clean about his full involvement in the attack on our democracy.”
Parlatore said in his email that Newton’s statement was “incoherent.”
“I would suggest that Mr. Shapiro and the DGA focus on issues affecting the citizens of Pennsylvania rather than screaming about debunked statements about Senator Mastriano’s involvement in the January 6 riot, ”Parlatore wrote, referring to Mastriano’s Democratic opponent, Josh Shapiro, who is currently Pennsylvania’s attorney general.
If victorious in November, Mastriano would have an alarming amount of power over the state’s electoral process in 2024 – and its coveted 20 electoral votes.
On the campaign trail, Mastriano has shown himself to be a key part of the insurgent, anti-democratic Christian nationalist movement, which sees America as a nation created exclusively for Christians, and paints its opponents as the instruments of satanic forces.
A USA Today / Suffolk University poll released this month showed Mastriano trailing Shapiro by only 4 percentage points, a difference within the poll’s margin of error.