Candidates’ donors hidden by antiquated Pa. law, Common Cause says

If you’re voting in Pennsylvania Tuesday and you want to find out who’s funding candidates running in your legislative district, you might just be out of luck, according to Alex Kaplan of Common Cause Pennsylvania.


State election law requires candidates to file reports showing their contributors and expenses. But Kaplan hit a wall when he wanted to find out who’s contributing to the campaign of Fatimah Muhammad, a candidate in his West Philadelphia legislative district.

“She has quite a lot of advertisements all around the city — big, big billboards and quite a lot of money. But I don’t know who’s funding it,” Kaplan said.

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The Philadelphia Daily News discovered Muhammad is getting significant funding from groups committed to school vouchers, but that information came from the committees’ reports, not Muhammad’s.

The state election code doesn’t require candidates to file electronically, and candidates who choose to submit paper filings know the information won’t be up on the state’s website for weeks.

As of the Friday, Kaplan found, the reports of fewer than 180 of the 372 candidates for the state House were available on the Department of State’s website.

The only way to see who’s funding the rest of the candidates is to trek to Harrisburg to consult the paper filings. And that office is closed weekends.

The solution to the problem, Kaplan says, is to require electronic filing. There are two bills pending in the legislature to do just that.

UPDATE: An earlier version of this story inacurrately described Kaplan as representing the Pennsylvania American Civil Liberties Union. We regret the error.

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