Facing allegations that a supporter has been involved in the white nationalist movement, congressional candidate Art Halvorson stood by the endorsement Thursday and accused Rep. Bill Shuster, R-9th District, of hypocrisy for accepting the same supporter's campaign money in 2006.
A day after the Franklin County Republican Party chairman pointed out predecessor Jim Taylor's connection to the National Policy Institute - a group that purports to defend white people's interests - both Taylor and Halvorson dismissed the story as a cheap political tactic. Taylor, a former Franklin County GOP chairman, endorsed Halvorson in April.
"I know Mr. Taylor, and he is supporting me. ... He is a respected name in the Franklin County GOP," Halvorson told WRTA radio host Dave Barger on Thursday. "I have done my own research on Mr. Taylor, and there is no evidence he's a racist."
In a news release, Taylor noted that he contributed $1,500 to Shuster's 2006 re-election campaign. Campaign finance records show America's Political Action Committee, a group Taylor founded, donated money to Shuster and many other Republican candidates nationwide.
In a statement Wednesday, Shuster campaign manager Sean Joyce expressed disappointment in Halvorson's decision to embrace Taylor's support. On Thursday, Joyce said Shuster's campaign planned to donate $1,500, the amount of Taylor's 2006 contribution, to the Chambersburg Hispanic American Center.
"My admiration [for Shuster] gradually diminished as I observed the congressman's bullying tactics, his poor record on fiscal votes and his less than admirable personal behavior," Taylor wrote.
"As our congressman, Mr. Shuster should condemn such baseless, personal attacks against fellow Republicans, not feed the fire," he said.
The dispute stems from Taylor's past position as vice president of the National Policy Institute, which carries out research and publishes tracts on issues supposedly facing white Americans. The Southern Poverty Law Center, which maintains a database of extremist and hate groups, includes the institute among "academic racist" forces.
Taylor denied involvement in white supremacy Thursday, noting his support for black conservative groups and arguing that he left the National Policy Institute after only six months on its board.
"Though the NPI studied issues of race while I was associated with them, it was in no way a racist organization," he wrote. "I left after only six months because of my participation in too many other organizations. ... While I believed NPI was doing good work in 2006, I would not care to be associated with material I found on their website in recent years."
However, tax exemption forms list Taylor as the group's vice president from 2005-07, a time when they published a "State of White America" report criticizing the civil rights movement. They listed their goal: "To elevate the consciousness of whites, ensure our biological and cultural continuity, and protect our civil rights."
Taylor's connection to the group was noted Wednesday by Dwight Weidman, Franklin County's current GOP chairman and a Shuster supporter. In his news release, Taylor in turn accused Weidman of past involvement in a website that pushed "racist and white supremacist views."
That accusation stems from a 1998 Charleston Daily Mail article on Weidman, who at the time lived in West Virginia and published a Republican gossip site. A Democratic politician called Weidman's site a "neo-Nazi type thing," though a reporter at the time said there was no evidence of racist posts on the page.
The allegations and counter-allegations among Halvorson, Shuster and both Franklin County Republican leaders point to the campaign's increasing virulence as the May 20 primary approaches.
In a WRTA panel Thursday, state Rep. John McGinnis, who backs Halvorson, compared the situation to that of Phil Waite, the Spring Cove history teacher whose 2012 comparison of President Barack Obama and Adolf Hitler gained national attention. Waite's comments were used to unfairly attack Tom Smith, the Republican Senate candidate who attended the same event, McGinnis said.
Halvorson agreed, accusing Shuster's campaign of using the "race card."
"When you're in trouble, resort to racism," Halvorson said. "That's rule No. 1 for Obama, and they're adopting it."