Court will rule on release of DNC finance records

Members of Reclaim Philadelphia march through Center City to demand that the DNC reveal its sources of funding. (Emma Lee/WHYY)

Members of Reclaim Philadelphia march through Center City to demand that the DNC reveal its sources of funding. (Emma Lee/WHYY)

Who’s paying for Philadelphia to host the Democratic National Convention? We may — or may not — know more after a Court of Common Pleas hearing Thursday morning. 

Specifically, Judge Abbe Fletman will decide whether the Philadelphia Authority for Industrial Development (PAID) must release the quarterly financial reports submitted by the DNC host committee, which is raising about $60 million to cover the costs of the event. The reports are required as part of an agreement in which PAID, a city agency, guaranteed a $15 million line of credit to the host committee.

Dustin Slaughter, an independent journalist, requested the documents through a right-to-know request. The state’s Office of Open Records ruled in April that PAID should release the reports by July 14. That date came and went and Slaughter filed a complaint in the Court of Common Pleas last week. 

Slaughter’s attorney, Drexel University law professor Chapin Cimino, requested an emergency hearing, which is scheduled for Thursday morning at 9 a.m. in Fletman’s chambers in Philadelphia City Hall. 

“Thursday’s ruling, more broadly, will be a judgement on whether or not private entities, like the host committee, will be able to exert political pressure over the public’s right to know, and use the courts to stymie transparency,” said Slaugher in a press release. 

A spokeswomen for PAID did not immediately respond to requests for comment.

“These actions are perpetuating a negative narrative that does not exist,” said host committee spokeswoman Anna Adams-Sarthou in a statement. “The fact is the Host Committee’s fundraising has been on track and, moreover, successful, with no City dollars spent to cover any of our obligations.”

The host committee has said previously it is complying with federal law, which states it must release donor information 60 days after the convention. 

Six activists with the group Reclaim Philadelphia — mostly Bernie Sanders supporters — were arrested during a a rally in support of releasing the records ahead of tomorrow’s court hearing. About 70 people attended the rally, chanting “people in, party out” and calling on host committee leaders Ed Rendell, Daniel Hillferty and David L. Cohen to step down. 

In the past two weeks, the group has also attempted to deliver letters to the men’s offices and last week, their homes. 

“I think our country’s being taken over by corporate interests and we suspect that that is who is behind funding this convention,” said Amy Roat, a Philadelphia school teacher who participated in the protest. “We also want to reform the Democratic Party and if we don’t have the information, then we don’t know.”

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