Follow the money

    Tracking contributions to candidates in city elections is a little easier now, thanks to improvements in the website at the city Board of Ethics.

    The board already had a database of contributions to city candidates, but the search engine was a little clunky to use. Now they’ve added a couple of basic, commonly-used search functions. You can enter a contributor, and get the contributor’s donations to a variety of candidates, or enter a candidate or committee name and get the names of their contributors.

    I gave it a try by entering “Local 98” in the contributor field, looking for donations from the International Brotherhood of Electrical Workers Local 98, the city’s most politically influential union.

    I set the search for 2010, and a list of donations immediately appeared. I learned that the union’s committee gave $150,000 to State Senator Anthony Williams, who ran for governor, and $70,000 to State Representative Bill Keller, a longtime ally of Local 98 Business Manager John Dougherty.

    And there were curiosities, like $2,500 to the 31st ward Republican committee (the ward leader is Vince Fenerty, who runs the Philadelphia Parking Authority) and three contributions totaling $7,000 to the Republican City Committee.

    Try a name yourself here.

    Also, I’ve gotten several queries about my post last week on dozens of City Council candidates who hadn’t provided legally-required information about their campaign committees to the Ethics Board. I’ve heard informally that many candidates have since provided the info. Look for an update and a list of stragglers early next week.

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