Keeping voters in the dark

     Senator Anthony Williams and Jim Kenney (Emma Lee/WHYY)

    Senator Anthony Williams and Jim Kenney (Emma Lee/WHYY)

    There’s an un-solved mystery in the Philadelphia mayor’s race: who’s paying for the $2.5 million worth of TV ads promoting the candidacies of Anthony Hardy Williams and Jim Kenney?

    We know the names of the committees making and placing the ads, but under current reporting requirements, they don’t have to reveal any of their donors for the year until May 8th, just eleven days before the primary election.

    We know the names of three wealthy donors to American Cities, the pro- Williams group, because one of the three talked publicly about it. But there could be other contributors (I was told when it was formed the group was a “bipartisan, nationwide organization empowering citizens to have a stronger voice in municipal elections”).

    And we don’t know whether or to what extent the city’s biggest-spending labor union, Electricians’ Local 98, is funding the Super PAC called Building a Better Pa that’s running ads for Kenney.

    We won’t know any of this stuff until May 8th, because that’s the requirement in the state election code, both for independent groups and candidates themselves.

    But Wednesday, the city Ethics Board voted to recommend that City Council change the rules, so that in Philadelphia elections, candidates and other committees spending money to affect your votes have to reveal their donors and their spending earlier, and often.

    Under their proposal, candidates and committees would have to file a complete campaign finance report six weeks before the election, and then again every two weeks until election day.

    Makes sense to me.

    Want a digest of WHYY’s programs, events & stories? Sign up for our weekly newsletter.

    Help us get to 100% of our membership goal to support the reporters covering our region, the producers bringing you great local programs and the educators who teach all our children.