SCRANTON, Pa. (CN) – A former Green Party candidate for U.S. Senate claims the House Democratic Caucus used taxpayer money to fund signature challenges that kept his name off the November 2006 ballot. Carl Romanelli claims Democrats wanted to “enhance the electability of the Democratic nominee … by eliminating a challenger whose votes would likely come at [Democrat Robert] Casey’s expense.”
Romanelli claims in Federal Court that the Democratic Caucus paid nearly $4,000 to get copies of the 3,704 pages of his nominating petitions, which contained 94,544 signatures, immediately after he submitted them.
The Caucus then illegally created a challenge document by using state employees who “worked day in and day out on the petitions” and “were all paid by the Commonwealth with taxpayer money,” Romanelli claims.
He claims the employees received instructions from Caucus leaders on how to review petition pages for irregularities that would lead to invalidation of a signature or an entire page when they volunteered to “conduct reviews during normal working hours at their Caucus workplaces.”
Romanelli claims the volunteers used Caucus computers “to research information on individuals whose names appeared as signatures on the petitions through the Constituent Tracking Service, a program which was designed and intended for legitimate legislative use, and which included voter registration information.”
He claims workers also used Caucus computers to “compile and transmit the information which would be used to challenge signatures on petition pages.”
Romanelli claims the result was a challenge of 69,692 signatures, “illegally created by state employees,” that kept him off the ballot.
Romanelli claims it was not the first time that employees and resources of the House Democratic Caucus were used “to conduct petition challenges against candidates who were opponents of Caucus incumbents or the Democratic Party.”
He claims that his unlawful removal was “disturbingly similar” to the 2004 removal of Ralph Nader from the Pennsylvania ballot.
Romanelli says he learned of the Caucus’ alleged civil and criminal conspiracies in July 2008, when Pennsylvania Attorney General Tom Corbett indicted the members who led the “tax funded challenge to ballot access.”
The indictment led to a grand jury investigation alleged “data-mining operations” that used state money to run a “secret campaign office in the Capitol building.”
“On July 10, 2008, Pennsylvania Attorney General Tom Corbett announced the Statewide Grand Jury Presentment and indictment of the so called ‘Bonusgate’ defendants, including some of the defendants herein, for a multitude of criminal offenses, including theft, conflict of interest and conspiracy for a number of acts including the those specifically related to the petition challenge to Carl Romanelli in 2006,” according to the complaint.
Several “Bonusgate” Caucus members, including defendant Mike Veon, have been sentenced to prison this year as a result of the investigation, according to the Philadelphia Inquirer.
Romanelli seeks damages of more than $150,000 for violations of his civil and constitutional rights.
He is represented by Lawrence Otter, of Doylestown, Pa.