Contribution limits double in Council race

    This is great news for Philadelphia ward leaders.

    Realtor Allan Domb has put more than $250,000 of his own cash into his City Council-at-large campaign, triggering the “millionaire’s exception” to the city’s campaign finance limits. To make it fairer for candidates who don’t have a lot of personal wealth, campaign contribution limits are now doubled for any other candidate for Council-at-large.

    The limits rise from $2,900 for individual donors to $5,800, and from $11,500 to $23,000 for political committees and business partnerships.

    That means if you’re a candidate for whom a supportive union has already maxed out with an $11,500 donation,  they can bump it to $23,000. Same for the law firm or insurance broker that loves you. And you can tap your friends and relatives who gave you $2,900  for another check.

    Why is this good for ward leaders? There will now be bigger pool of money chasing what they have to offer – slots on the recommended ballots their committeepeople push on election day.

    In case you’re new to this, here’s how it works: In theory, ward leaders support the candidates the Democratic city committee has endorsed. In reality, ward leaders can choose to “cut” a few of the party’s slate from their recommended ballots, and give some slots to unendorsed candidates. Those candidates are expected to pay the ward leader a grand or two or more for the expense of producing the ballot and staffing polling places.

    These days, those payments are reported (as legally required) by the candidates, and ward leaders don’t take the money personally – it goes to their ward committees, which also have to report what they receive and how they spend it. But you know, there could be some slippage here and there.

    In any case, the 69 Democratic ward leaders are now in a position to ask a little more for those precious ballot spots, because trust me, Council-at-large candidates need them on election day.

    It will be interesting to see if Domb’s late-coming, media-driven campaign gets him where he needs to be – among the top five finishers in a pretty strong Democratic field. I’m skeptical, but if he gets there, I think he’ll have to spend some of that cash on ward leaders.

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