In Philly’s mayoral race, campaign finance filings show anemic pace

 Timothy Dowling, acting supervisor of elections, sorts through candidates' campaign filings Monday. (Kimberly Paynter/WHYY)

Timothy Dowling, acting supervisor of elections, sorts through candidates' campaign filings Monday. (Kimberly Paynter/WHYY)

Looks like money is tight so far in the Philadelphia mayor’s race, though signs indicate that larger donations may be coming from outside groups in the contest.

Campaign finance reports filed Monday show that, so far, none of the mayoral candidates has what’s needed for a significant media campaign, and they lag well behind the contenders at this point in the 2007 race, the last time the office was open.

Reports filed covering fundraising efforts through Dec. 31 show none of the candidates had as much as $500,000 on hand, and all but two had less than $100,000. 

By contrast, at this point in the 2007 contest, Michael Nutter had raised $1.7 million, U.S. Rep. Bob Brady had raised nearly $500,000, and businessman Tom Knox was investing millions of his own into the race.

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Then, as now, the city’s campaign finance law imposed limits on contributions to candidates. The current limits are $2,900 from individuals, and $11,500 from political committees and businesses.

The candidates in 2007 were, in general, a more established and influential group of political figures than the current field, and many had been in the race longer than those now seeking the office.

But at least one current candidate, Williams, will benefit from an independent expenditure effort,  which can received unlimited contributions. More on that development here.

From Monday’s filings:

Anthony Williams raised about $208,000 for his mayoral campaign last year and had nearly $426,000 on hand at the end of 2014.  Williams is allowed to make contributions of no more than $11,500 a year from his senatorial campaign coffers to support his mayoral bid.
Jim Kenney, who will kick off his campaign Thursday evening, raised about $236,000 last year. He had nearly $76,600 on hand at the end of 2014.
Nelson Diaz raised $87,800 last year and had $79,500 in the bank at the end of 2014.
Lynne Abraham raised $265,270 had about $196,000 on hand at the end of last year. She has filed a supplemental report showing she raised an additional $291,680 in January, leaving her with $424,611 on hand at the end of the month. Nearly a quarter of what Abraham raised, $122,000,  consists of personal loan she made to her campaign.

Also of note: Ken Trujillo, who dropped out of the race two weeks ago, raised $368,000 and had about $190,000 on hand at the end of 2014. Terry Gillen, who exited the race in early January, raised about $229,000 and had nearly $141,500 on hand at the end of last year. 

Likely candidates Doug Oliver and Milton Street Sr. did not file 2014 reports, although neither is expected to report any significant fundraising. 

However, according to Tim Dowling, the city’s campaign finance specialist, Street and Oliver both should have submitted annual reports. Street registered a political committee early in November, which means that under state law, he is expected to submit a form, regardless of whether he has raised or spent any money.

Street’s son, Milton Street Jr., said the candidate will eventually file the required report.

“We’re going to file. We just didn’t file today,” he said. “Maybe within a week or two.”

In the meantime, Street could face fines of $20 for each day he does not file an annual report (up to a maximum of $250).

Dowling said Oliver, who has made it clear that he is planning to run and will formally announce his candidacy on Saturday, should have authorized and registered a committee. Under state law, Oliver is a candidate because he appears to be spending money setting up his DO2015 website. 

A spokesman for Oliver did not immediately return a request for comment.

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