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Ah, PA-12, it's been a while...

Longtime John Murtha ally and wealthy Johnstown Republican Mark Pasquerilla has been a prominent backer of Murtha's former staffer Mark Critz, who won the 12th District seat in a May special election and will run for the full term in November, a role that hasn't exactly proven popular within the GOP. Critz foe Tim Burns.

pasquerillaNow Burns is saying that relationship has crossed the line from thorn in his side to improper. Pasquerilla paid from his own pocket for ads backing Critz in the Johnstown Tribune-Democrat, which the Burns campaign claims amount to de facto donations to Critz -- and Pasquerilla (right: Trib-Dem mugshot) has already maxed out on contributions to Critz. Take it away, PA2010:

Both ads carried the disclaimer that they were paid for by Pasquerilla personally and were “not authorized by any candidate or campaign committee.” If Pasquerilla purchased them as an individual without coordinating with the Critz campaign, the ads would seem to amount to protected free speech. But Burns’ campaign is arguing that Pasquerilla is too close to the Critz campaign to make that claim, and that the ads effectively put Pasquerilla over the legal contribution limit. In an interview with pa2010.com, Burns spokesman Kent Gates said it was further evidence that Critz is playing loose with election laws. He noted that Critz received a warning from the Cambria County Elections Supervisor for allegedly going into polling places on election day.

“I’ve personally never been to a Critz campaign event that Mark Pasquerilla has not also attended,” Gates said. “We know he has a leadership position within that campaign, and to say that he did not coordinate that ad is just not feasible. He’s not just a donor.”

In an e-mail, Pasquerilla denied any impropriety.

“I know it may be surprising to the Burns consultants that anyone from the 12th District is capable of writing a strong persuasive argument, defending the area’s work force or otherwise, but I take full credit,” Pasquerilla said. “The ad was not out-sourced, it is my creation. I do think if they pursue this complaint, that they may be trying to muzzle me and limit my constitutional rights of free speech.”

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