How ‘dark money’ could affect Philly’s mayoral and council races

 (Photo via ShutterStock)

(Photo via ShutterStock)

Over on his Off Mic blog, Dave Davies shared information today about Philadelphia 3.0, a new organization that will wield “dark money” in its “focus on getting a better City Council.”

Davies spoke with the group’s executive director, Allison Perelman. Here’s what she told him:

“We are going to be building a leadership pipeline of new compelling candidates to run for City Council. We think that there are many strong, compelling leaders who have an interest in public office, but decide not to take the risk to run because they don’t see a path to victory.”

What sets that quote apart from others involved in the effort is a name affixed to the words. You see, donors can remain anonymous.

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The discouraging thing about the effort, from the point of transparency in elections, is that it appears determined to hide the identity of its donors.

The group is organized not as a political committee, which would have to file regular reports disclosing donors and spending, but as a 501-c4 non-profit corporation. That’s the kind of entity we’ve heard so much about on the national level that takes big checks, influences elections and keeps donors’ identities private.

When I asked Perelman why the donors chose to remain anonymous, she really didn’t have an answer. But she did say that group will strengthen democracy by making candidates and campaign debate more substantive.

While 3.0 is focused on the council elections, I asked Davies whether we could see similar groups cropping up in the race to become Philly’s 99th mayor.

The short answer: Yep.

The little-bit-longer answer: The technique through which this group formed “is available to anyone else who’d like to influence the mayor’s race anonymously.”

So, keep that in mind when people start talking about how much or little money upon which the mayoral campaigns are sitting. Everything may not be what it seems.

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