Candidacy of Shuster challenger questioned

A longtime supporter of U.S. Rep. Bill Shuster, 9th District, is asking the Federal Elections Commission to determine if likely challenger Art Halvorson or his exploratory committee have violated campaign laws.

In a letter to the Washington, D.C.-based regulatory agency, attorney William J. Haberstroh of Hollidaysburg suggests that Halvorson and his exploratory committee have exceeded the activities permitted when considering a campaign.

“Once you get past an exploratory point, you’re supposed to file as a candidate,” Haberstroh said Wednesday.

Halvorson said Wednesday that he believes he has done everything by the book. The retired Coast Guard captain – who moved to Manns Choice, Bedford County, in 2007 – announced April 15 that he was forming an exploratory committee to consider running for the congressional seat.

An announcement of his candidacy for the 2014 primary is scheduled at 4 p.m. Saturday at the Jean Bonnet Tavern in Bedford.

“For the last 30 days, I’ve been measuring support for that,” Halvorson said.

In his letter to the FEC, Haberstroh makes reference to the website featuring a campaign banner titled “Art Halvorson for Congress,” along with Halvorson’s biography and instructions on how to volunteer and contribute to the campaign.

Haberstroh’s letter also refers to Halvorson’s multiple speaking engagements and published interviews where Halvorson “spoke freely and specifically on policy issues and openly challenged Congressman Shuster, the sitting representative for the 9th District.”

While campaign finance laws allow individuals to “test the waters” and explore the viability of becoming a candidate, they also require an individual to register as a candidate if campaign activity exceeds $5,000 in either contributions or expenditures.

“Given the significant organization, infrastructure and publicity Halvorson’s exploratory efforts are comprised of, there is a near-certain likelihood that he has surpassed the $5,000 candidacy threshold,” Haberstroh told the FEC.

Halvorson said his public appearances within the past month have addressed his interest in the position.

“I told people why I thought I should run … what I believe and what I don’t believe,” he said.

His campaign website, Halvorson said, was designed by a friend who volunteered her time.

Contributions so far consist of a $15 check from a Hollidaysburg resident and a $100 contribution from his daughter, he added.

“I may be new to the process, but I’m not naive,” Halvorson said. “It’s a good warm-up for what’s going to happen over the next year.”

Haberstroh, who said he made the Shuster campaign aware of his letter but submitted it on his own, said it will be up to the FEC to determine if campaign laws were broken and if sanctions are warranted.

Sean P. Joyce, campaign manager for Bill Shuster for Congress, said, “The complaint came from a private citizen that believes Mr. Halvorson is violating the spirit of the law. The complaint was sent to the campaign after it was filed and submitted to the FEC. Congressman Shuster is focused on continuing his work for the people of the 9th Congressional District and fighting for conservative solutions to the challenges facing the nation.”

Mirror Staff Writer Kay Stephens is at 946-7456.