The formation of and reason for Friends of Lansdale, a Political Action Committee created in March, has sent up some red flags in the Democratic community in Lansdale, namely due to its campaign finance statement that specifies no contributions or expenses in this current election year.
In a campaign finance statement received by Voter Services of Montgomery County May 6, treasurer Thomas Benner recorded that, between Jan. 1, 2011 and May 2, 2011, there has been zero cash balance and zero debts or liabilities.
Furthermore, the statement was Form DSEB-503, which reports expenditures incurred that are less than $250 during the reporting period.
According to Angelichio, Friends of Lansdale has not only expensed four different campaign mailers, but also palm cards, literature drops and yard signs.
Mailers alone can cost upwards of $5,000. Postage at 44 cents each for the 1,704 Democrats just in Ward 3 totals $749.
Furthermore, a fundraiser for Friends of Lansdale was held April 29 at the home of Lansdale Democratic Committee Chairman Jack Hansen. Donors were asked to give anywhere between $1,000 (Obama donor) to $25 (friend).
Hansen said that fundraiser brought in $1,900 for the PAC.
According to Hansen, all expenses were done on “a handshake” and no money has been deposited because the bank did not open an account for Friends of Lansdale.
“As of this time, finance statements were submitted where nothing had come in with the exception of fundraising,” he said. “We finally got an account opened last week.”
He said checks were written to suppliers on May 13.
“Everything was done on a handshake. The suppliers gave it to us on an agreement as soon as the PAC was open and brought in money,” Hansen said. “At this point, now it has been paid for. The treasurer tired to open it earlier, but the bank needed an account of registration from the county.”
Hansen said there are about 13 contributors for the PAC at this time.
There was some speculation that, because the campaign finance statement showed no expenses or income, that Friends of Lansdale had a private benefactor.
“I’m definitely not aware of a private benefactor,” said Angelichio. “I’m a firm believer in no secrets in government, and I don’t want to sound hypocritical.”
Calls made to Benner were not returned.
The Lansdale Democratic Committee and Friends of Lansdale has thrown its support behind Ward 3 candidate Leon Angelichio.
“It was formed to support the entire Democratic ticket of the endorsed candidate, and right now, it is behind me,” said Angelichio. “I don’t know if it paid for anything for Denton.”
Hansen said the Friends of Lansdale was not created separately from the Democratic committee just to finance Angelichio’s campaign.
“It was created to finance all endorsed candidates in Lansdale,” he said. “The reason why it was formed as a separate PAC is because most of the people involved a little gun shy after what happened two years ago when the Lansdale Democratic Committee was endorsing and financing all the candidates and then some went over to the Citizens for a Better Lansdale group. We didn’t want that to happen again. That’s why we formed a separate PAC.”
Hansen said a lot of people in the Democratic Party in Lansdale were very upset then and still are upset now over what happened with the Citizens for a Better Lansdale.
“The party has not made any contribution to the Friends of Lansdale now because it’s a contested primary,” he said. “I told the party it was not fair to put the money behind one and not behind the other. It wasn’t fair to do that, so a separate PAC was formed.”
Hansen said the Lansdale Democratic Party and Friends of Lansdale do not support Burnell at this time.
“If he wins the primary, he will,” said Hansen. “Now, it supports the endorsed Democratic candidate.”
Councilwoman Mary Fuller has come forward to express her disappointment and confusion over how Angelichio was endorsed by the Lansdale Democratic Party.
Fuller said the endorsement vote for Angelichio at the April committee meeting was “fishy.” She said she asked that her comments be added as part of the official record, but she has yet to see a copy of those minutes.
“Some of us – there are two who support Denton Burnell – were not informed a vote would take place that night,” Fuller said. “Supposedly, no one was informed. However, one person ‘happened’ to show up with a proxy vote ‘just in case’ and another committeeman who never attends ‘happened’ to show up.”
Fuller said that had she known there was a vote, she could have been prepared with a proxy for her husband’s vote, as he is also a committeeman.
“The Lansdale Democratic Committee reorganization meeting took place under unusually quick circumstances,” she said.
Fuller claimed the meeting ironically coincided with the same amount of time that she was late to the meeting due to the Lansdale Library Committee meeting going over time.
Hansen said there was an “impromptu motion” to put on the floor to endorse a candidate.
“The county wanted to know if there was an endorsement prior to talking about it,” Hansen said. “There was a motion put on the floor to endorse and an endorsement vote was taken.”
The motion to endorse was made by committee member Joe Cionzynski, who had a proxy by Al Rieck to make the motion, Hansen said.
“At that point, the committee was there and a quorum was present,” Hansen said.
The committee has 16 elected members, and 12 were present.
The vote came out 9-3 in favor of Angelichio, who is also vice chairman of the Lansdale Democratic Committee.
“There is nothing different than I’ve seen at other endorsement meetings in my political career,” Hansen said. “I’ve been to endorsement conventions where candidates were not there and votes were taken. It’s nothing out of the ordinary.”
Hansen said he knows that Fuller is upset about the vote.
“As chair, I was running the meeting as it should be run according to Robert’s Rule of Order,” Hansen said. “There was a motion on the floor, a second, and a vote was taken.”
Angelichio said Burnell was invited to attend, but he did not show up.
Hansen said Burnell was at the meeting prior when it was announced when the next meeting would take place.
He said a reminder was not sent out, but it is not tradition to do so.
“Everyone was already told previously when the next meeting would be. I don’t believe a reminder was sent out and that was me dropping the ball,” Hansen said. “I apologize for dropping the ball and not sending out a notice.”
Burnell said the endorsement vote was done “under the cover of darkness.”
“I was not given information about the meeting,” Burnell said. “I had attended the previous meeting and I’m not on anybody’s mailing list. I knew about the first one because Jack (Hansen) told me about it. For the subsequent meeting, I never received an email or phone call.”
Burnell said it came to his attention that “a bunch of people that don’t normally attend were called and told they ought to be there.”
“It was clearly an effort being made to get a certain segment of the committee there to ensure an outcome of a vote,” Burnell said.
Burnell said when he started his campaign, he reached out to Hansen to bury the hatchet. He said the committee had a perception of him because he was spending his own money and no money from anybody else.
“I think it’s real simple: They don’t trust me and they associate me with everything they were fighting against in the last year,” Burnell said. “I’m not sure why. I’m guilty by association even though I’ve not voted or taken up any issue whatsoever.”
Burnell said committeeman Robert Willi asked to postpone the vote and the committee decided not to do so.
“There’s no reason why they needed to pass any endorsement to the county on that timeline,” Burnell said. “They just decided they were going to do it.”
Burnell emphasized that he is endorsed by Willi, borough planning commission chairwoman Julia Menzo, planning commission member Drew Stockmal and Lansdale Democratic Committeeman Rege McKenzie.
“They are all respected Democrats in Ward 3, and they all realize the direction where the leadership party is going,” Burnell said. “They will break party tradition and endorse me instead.”
Hansen doesn’t see a break from tradition.
“We have hoped to have a unanimous decision from the party and have everyone get behind who the endorsed candidates are, and I’ve always been told that if you want to break from an endorsed candidate and support someone else, fine,” Hansen said. “Just don’t do it in a General Election and support another party candidate. When two Democrats are running, you can support whomever.”
Hansen reiterated that if Burnell prevails tomorrow, the entire party and Friends of Lansdale would get behind him.
“I won’t tolerate it if the party does not get behind him,” Hansen said. “I can’t speak for the PAC, but I will. Whoever the nominee is, we get behind them 100 percent.”
Hansen said he extends an invite to Angelichio and Burnell to gather at his home on Knapp Road following the close of the polls to celebrate a winner in the primary.