Trevor Southerland, the executive director of the House Democratic Campaign Committee in Pennsylvania has collected just over $365,000 in payments categorized as reimbursements across the last three years, according to campaign finance reports available through the Pennsylvania Department of State.

Reimbursements on campaign finance reports are not unusual. However, they are rarely over $1,000. HDCC executive director Trevor Southerland, on the other hand, has several reimbursements over $20,000.

“Reimbursements of that size immediately raise giant red flags,” said Charlie Gerow, a longtime Harrisburg-based political consultant, pundit, and former Republican candidate for governor.

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While there may be a legitimate reason for the large reimbursements, Trevor Southerland and the HDCC’s press secretary did not return requests for an explanation.

The HDCC is a campaign committee not tailored to any single candidate; instead, it works to elect Democrats to the Pennsylvania House of Representatives across all corners of the commonwealth.

For comparison, Broad + Liberty also analyzed expenditures for the HDCC’s political counterpart, the House Republican Campaign Committee, for a slightly shorter time from 2022–23. In that period, the HRCC only showed a grand total of $14,000 in reimbursements, and those payments were spread across eight different individuals. No reimbursement in that time period was greater than $1,200.

Across the same period, Southerland’s reimbursements totaled about $252,000 — more than eighteen times the total reimbursements made by the HRCC. He racked up seven reimbursements over $20,000, with the highest of them ringing up all the way to $39,000.

The size of the reimbursements raise several questions. For example, did Southerland have enough available credit or cash to be able to front $20,000 of purchases himself? If not, where did those funds or lines of credit come from?

Additionally, large reimbursements can also be used to obscure line-by-line spending by a campaign committee. Pennsylvania campaign finance law requires that reports show “Each and every expenditure, the date made, the full name and address of the person to whom made and the purpose for which such expenditure was made.” If someone in a committee pays for those expenses out of pocket and has them reimbursed in a single lump sum, the individual purchases end up hidden, at least temporarily.

Reimbursements of that size immediately raise giant red flags.

Another subsection of Pennsylvania campaign finance law essentially allows anyone to ask for receipts that substantiate the purchases, which Broad + Liberty will file Monday with the Department of State.

Questionable campaign finance activity is nothing new in Pennsylvania. In 2019, Spotlight PA did an in-depth story about campaign “reimbursements” that paid for costs with little or no connection to campaigning or office. Efforts to reform the system in the years since have not resulted in changes in the law.

Below are links to each campaign finance report. (Editor’s note: Because there have been multiple special elections in 2023, the HDCC has been required to submit multiple reports with the same “cycle” categorization, even if that means submitting reports that duplicate one another. So, while a normal campaign committee would only have one “Cycle 8” report and so on, the HDCC has had multiple filings with the same cycle designation. Some are duplicates, others are not. We’ve linked to them all here, differentiating them as set A, set B, etc., and have identified those filings which are exact duplicates of each other so that you may see our work.)

Todd Shepherd is Broad + Liberty’s chief investigative reporter. Send him tips at, or use his encrypted email at @shepherdreports

3 thoughts on “House Dem. campaign chief collected $365,000 in reimbursements from campaign committee”

  1. I can’t wait to find out what those receipts show. Maybe by then Southerland will want to comment.

  2. Follow up: Trevor has been ‘let go’ from his position.
    Evidently it takes a lot of walking around money to flip the state legislative party control. See his past trolley stops here:

    Where there’s smoke, there’s fire.

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