State Sen. Doug Mastriano, the Republican nominee for Pennsylvania governor, accepted a $500 campaign contribution from the founder of the antisemitic social media platform Gab days before Mastriano denied any association with him, according to new financial disclosures released earlier this week.
The founder, Andrew Torba, is known for sharing antisemitic posts online, and Gab is an echo chamber for white nationalism that was used by the man who killed 11 Jews at the Tree of Life synagogue in Pittsburgh in 2018.
The $500 contribution was made on July 22, as Mastriano was fighting off criticism — including by the Republican Jewish Coalition — for having paid Gab a $5,000 consulting fee. On July 28, Torba asked his followers to contribute to Mastriano’s campaign, but also said he does not speak for the candidate or advise the campaign.
“The campaign paid Gab as a business for advertising during the primary,” he said. “That’s the extent of the relationship.”
Mastriano is a leader of the “Stop the Steal” movement aiming to overturn the results of the 2020 presidential election,and has faced mounting pressure since winning the May primary to disassociate himself with the antisemitic social media platform He has condemned “antisemitism in any form” but stopped short of denouncing Torba.
Mastriano is running against Pennsylvania’s Democratic Attorney General Josh Shapiro. The race is among this fall’s most closely watched in the country because a win by Mastriano would put a 2020 election denier in charge of a key battleground state’s election system.
Former President Donald Trump praised Mastriano in a conference call with supporters on Tuesday evening that was open to reporters. “I hear you’re doing fantastically in the polls and you’re doing really well,” he said. “You’re the talk of the town, you’re the talk of the country.”
A recent poll showed Shapiro with a double-digit lead over Mastriano, who hasn’t run any television ads since he won the GOP nomination. Mastriano is also being snubbed by the Republican Governors Association, which is helping candidates in Arizona, Michigan and other swing states.
Several prominent Jewish Republicans have already broken ranks to back Shapiro due to Mastriano’s relationship with Gab. Matt Brooks, executive director of the Republican Jewish Coalition and a Philadelphia native, said Jewish voters would cross over to vote for the Democrat in November after Mastriano attacked Shapiro for attending Jewish day schools and sending his kids to them.
The Lincoln Project, a super PAC launched by a group of “never Trump” Republicans in 2019, ran a TV ad last week highlighting Mastriano’s embrace of antisemites and association with Gab as well as a spike of attacks against Jews. In a fundraising email to his supporters Tuesday, Mastriano called the ads “vicious” and “dishonest,” saying that “not a word of these ads hold up to any scrutiny.” PJC