The mayoral campaign has hit the airwaves.
As reported by WHYY’s Dave Davies, “a Super PAC heavily supported by organized labor has aired the first TV ad of the Philadelphia mayor’s race, a positive spot supporting Democratic hopeful Jim Kenney.”
You can see the ad, produced by the Philadelphia-based Campaign Group, above.
Building a Better Pa. emerged last year supporting Democratic Congressional candidate Brendan Boyle, who won a four-way primary in the race to replace U.S. Rep. Allyson Schwartz in the 13th Congressinal district. Boyle was sworn in in January, representing the district which includes parts of Montgomery County and Northeast Philadelphia.
There are no figures available for what Building a Better Pa. raised or spent in 2015. It’s filings show that of the $364,536 it raised in 2014, $237,000 came from the political committee of the International Brotherhood of Electrical Workers Local 98, headed by John Dougherty, one of the most politically-influential labor leaders in Pennsylvania. Virtually all of that money was spent on the Boyle primary campaign.
When Building a Better Pa. ran ads supporting Boyle last spring, Wayne Miller, president of the Sprinkler Fitters Local 692 issued a statement on behalf of group, saying it’s “an independent coalition of Philadelphia area labor unions and concerned citizens.”
This ad is not part of the “dark money” phenomenon which enables campaign donors to remain anonymous. However, on the same day word of this ad arrived, Lynne Abraham called on Democratic candidates to eschew that funding route. She’s calling it the “Philadelphia People’s Pledge.”
Today I called on every Democratic candidate for Mayor to join me in supporting the Philadelphia People’s Pledge to keep outside dark money out of our Mayor’s election. This campaign must be about creating jobs, reducing crime, and rescuing our schools — not about pandering to the special interests, SuperPACs, or corporations, or fostering a “pay-to-play” culture. …
Philadelphians want and deserve an election clean of dark money, outside spending, or attempts to evade campaign finance laws. The City of Philadelphia put these campaign finance laws in place specifically to limit the role of special interests in our democracy and end the culture of “pay-to-play.” So please join me in asking all of the candidates to sign on and say that our democracy is not for sale: http://LynneAbraham.com/PeoplesPledge.
Mayoral candidate Doug Oliver has already weighed in on Abraham’s call to pledge action. He won’t sign it.
I share Mrs. Abraham’s concern about the influence of dark money in this Mayor’s race. While technically allowed, it’s in complete and total violation of the intent of Philadelphia’s Municipal Campaign Finance Law. There is something fundamentally flawed about allowing deep-pocketed special interests to impose their selected agenda upon Philadelphians under the guise of an election.
Candidates who receive the benefit of dark money are not necessarily bought-and-paid-for by special interests, but it sure does look like they are. And for all anyone knows, they very well may be.
My hope is that voters will be extremely critical of candidates that receive the benefit of exorbitant amounts of dark money support. Where a candidate’s support comes from says a lot about whose interests that candidate will represent, if elected. Furthermore, voters should ask themselves if they are comfortable with that.
As a practical matter, however, it’s not clear how — without “coordination” — a candidate would even know how much is being spent on his/her behalf. To sign the petition would be to agree to donate potentially limitless amounts of money to the School District from very limited campaign coffers. For that reason, I will not sign the petition.”
Suffice it to say, this issue has already resulted in a Twitter war between the Kenney and Abraham campaigns.
Clarification: An earlier version did not clearly state that the ad isn’t emblematic of the “dark money” phenomenon. NinetyNine apologizes for any confusion.