The fight over Pennsylvania lawmakers and repayment of their unvouchered expense payments is taking a new twist.

PACleanSweep, a non-partisan organization, wants lawmakers to repay their unvouchered expense payments from the now-repealed July 7 pay raise. The organization claims House rules prohibit members from donating any expense money to charity.

However, Republican Rep. Teresa Forcier, whose Sixth District includes Meadville, Titusville and eastern Crawford County, says the unvouchered money can go to charity and plans to do so.

Forcier is among several House members who have cited charitable contributions as the final destination of the funds and some members have used such giving as a reason for not repaying the money.

PACleanSweep officials say that according to The Pennsylvania Manual (Volume 116), House Rule 14 states: “No money appropriated for members’ and employees’ expenses shall be used for contributions to political parties or their affiliated organizations or to charitable organizations or for charitable advertisements.”

PACleanSweep has confirmed with House Parliamentarian Clancy Myer that Rule 14 hasn’t been altered since the manual’s publishing date.

“This poses a conundrum for quite a few lawmakers,” said PACleanSweep research director Leo Knepper. “On one hand, if they consider the extra money salary, they’re in violation of Article II Section 8 of the Constitution. On the other hand, if it’s expense money the members who gave it to charity are apparently in violation of House Rule 14.”

Not so, according to a statement from Forcier.

“I have once again confirmed with House Legal Counsel that the use of unvouchered expense payments for charitable donations does not violate the Rule 14 ban on using vouchered expenses or funds directly appropriated for specific legislative expenses,” she said.

“As I have stated on several occasions, my decision to accept the unvouchered expenses was not for personal gain,” she continued. “Instead, I want to make sure that this money goes to worthy causes that directly benefit the taxpayers in my district, rather than sit in an account where the purse strings are completely controlled by the original architects of the pay raise that was successfully repealed (in November).

“I already have my personal accountant compiling a list of exactly how much money was given to specific recipients that I will make available to public in the very near future,” she added.

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