Group backing Williams’ Philly mayoral bid spends more than $1 million

    The independent political committee supporting state Sen. Anthony Williams for Philadelphia mayor has made another major TV ad buy, bringing the group’s media spending to more than $1 million, more than all the other candidates and committees in the race combined.

    The committee, called American Cities, is backed by three wealthy financial executives who are avid supporters of school choice. I wrote more about them in a post yesterday.

    The three principals in the Bala Cynwyd-based Susquehanna International Group put more than $5 million into Williams’ unsuccessful campaign for governor, and the latest ad buy is a signal that they’re just as serious about his mayoral bid.

    There are two other independent expenditure groups advertising in the mayor’s race, both supporting former City Councilman Jim Kenney.

    Forward Philadelphia, a group whose backers include the American Federation of Teachers, has purchased more than $300,000 in ad time. And Building a Better PA, a federally registered super PAC supported by other labor unions, has spent around $190,000 on media buys.

    In addition, Williams’ campaign has bought nearly $200,000 worth of ad time. It’s the only candidate’s committee that has yet put ads on television in the race.

    A word about sources

    American Cities spokesman Joshua Morrow confirmed the group’s new ad buy taking the groups media purchases over the $1 million mark.

    My information on the other groups’ ad buys comes from people I’ve long known in the political media world who track ad purchases and are willing to share it on a confidential basis.

    I wish there were public filings with this information, but most of it isn’t available on a timely basis. All of the independent groups spending in the mayor’s race are organized as political committees rather than “dark money” nonprofits that hide their donors, so they will eventually disclose all their contributions and spending.

    But the next filing for them isn’t due until May 8, 11 days before the primary election.

    Broadcast television stations are supposed to regularly post their political ad sales on a site run by the Federal Communications Commission, but those files are cumbersome to use and the information is spotty, especially for the independent groups.

    Money and ad buys are only a part of the story in this race, of course. The candidates’ records and positions on issues should get most of our attention.

    But knowing who’s funding the messages we’re getting matters, and it shouldn’t be so hard to bring you that information.

    Want a digest of WHYY’s programs, events & stories? Sign up for our weekly newsletter.

    Together we can reach 100% of WHYY’s fiscal year goal