Lee and Sydelle Blatt are older now. In his early 80s, Lee is enjoying retirement in South Florida with his wife. But for many years, they’ve been staunch supporters of the Democratic Party and liberal causes.
According to Federal Elections Commission reports, the Blatts, who founded aerospace, defense, and medical parts manufacturer Herley Industries, have donated nearly $45,000 to Democrat causes over the past decade.
Bryan Lentz, a Democrat seeking outgoing-Rep. Joe Sestak’s 7th district seat in Delaware County, has himself received $9,400 from the Blatts over the past 12 months.
But for Lentz, these donations could come at an awkward cost.
Turns out Mr. Blatt was a target of former U.S. attorney Pat Meehan, Lentz’s Republican opponent.
According to an Associated Press report from June 7, 2006, Meehan and federal prosecutors brought suit against Blatt and his company for “scheming to defraud the U.S. military of millions of dollars by overcharging for components sold to the Air Force and Navy.”
At the time, Meehan said in a statement that the company had used it’s “advantage as a sole supplier to systematically gouge the U.S. military” and, by extension, the “taxpayers and the company’s shareholders.”
At issue in the case was whether the military had been misled over the cost of material production, and whether Herley had created false bids to justify its prices.
In May of 2008, the AP reported that, “Herley pleaded guilty to obstructing audits of bids to supply components for Navy and Air Force radar systems” while Blatt “pleaded guilty to failing to create and maintain tax records.”
Blatt had to pay a $25,000 fine and serve a year’s probation, while his company settled for nearly $10 million.
For Bryan Lentz, the question is whether he will return $9,400 in contributions from the founder and former chairman of a company charged with price-gouging the military.
Already running a fiery campaign against Meehan, Lentz has struggled in recent weeks amid allegations of broken campaign promises for denouncing per diems, but then taking them once in office.
Lentz also spoke out on the campaign trail against officials using taxpayer-funded vehicles, and within two years was leasing a taxpayer-funded hybrid.
Herley Industries has since had their contracting ability restored in light of their settlement, and is once more doing work for the armed services.
Calls to the Blatt residence were not answered. Battle ‘10 will follow this story as it develops.
UPDATE: Find the campaigns’ reactions to this story in my newer post, here.