Down the stretch, money pours into Philly’s DA’s race

 Seven Democratic candidates participate in the NAACP/WHYY District Attorney Candidate Forum held on Thursday at WHYY. (Bastiaan Slabbers for NewsWorks)

Seven Democratic candidates participate in the NAACP/WHYY District Attorney Candidate Forum held on Thursday at WHYY. (Bastiaan Slabbers for NewsWorks)

As the seven-candidate Democratic primary for Philadelphia District Attorney comes to a close, the influence of big money is apparent in late campaign spending filings. It appears likely that contributions made outside the city’s campaign contribution limits will exceed the money raised under the limits.

Three candidates have benefited from cash infusions that are legally exempt from the city’s constraints.

One is real estate developer Michael Untermeyer, who last week put another $300,000 into his own campaign. Added to his earlier contributions, Untermeyer has put $1.25 million into his war chest, by far the majority of his funding.

Building a Better Pennsylvania Fund, a labor-funded Super PAC backing candidate Jack O’Neill spent another $109,900 on that effort over the past week, late reports show.Altogether, the committee has now invested just short or a quarter million in that effort.

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The biggest player is billionaire George Soros, who’s dropped $1.45 million into supporting attorney Larry Krasner.

Taken together, those big money infusions total just short of $3 million.

Most of the rest of the money in the race has been raised within campaign finance limits, and will likely come up short of the independent expenditures and Untermeyer’s self-funding (final numbers won’t be available till mid-June).

Among the other candidates, Teresa Carr Deni has invested $130,000 of her own money into the race, about two thirds of her campaign war chest. And Joe Khan put $54,000 of his money into his campaign, less than ten percent of what he’s raised.

Also in the race is Rich Negrin, who’d raised $469,000 as of May 1st, and Tariq El-Shabazz, who raised $79,000 as of May 1st.

In the 2015 mayor’s race, about two-thirds of the spending came from groups other than the candidates’ committees.

Local 98 confirms its pick: O’Neill

Another nugget in the late campaign reports is that Local 98 of the International Brotherhood of Electrical Workers is finally on record as supporting candidate Jack O’Neill.Local 98’s political committee, led by John “Johny Doc” Dougherty, is the biggest spending PAC in Pennsylvania, but neither Doc nor the union has officially endorsed a candidate in the race (Local 98 also represents WHYY engineers).

There was circumstantial evidence Doc was supporting O’Neill, such as the fact that in 2015 the union provided about a third of the funding for Building a Better Pennsylvania Fund, the Super PAC that’s now using that leftover cash to back O’Neill. There’s also the fact that the Fund’s treasurer is Dougherty’s daughter, a union lawyer, and the fact that eight building trades unions endorsed O’Neill.

Dougherty never publicly endorsed O’Neill, perhaps because FBI raids’ Dougherty’s home and the union hall last summer made him a less-than-desirable ally to showcase. But the campaign reports filed over the last week show that Local 98’s political committee has spent $27,344 on independent expenditures for O’Neill, mostly on ads.

I don’t think we’ll see Jack and Doc in a photo op.

The primary election is Tuesday. Polls open at 7 a.m.

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