Jim Kenney effectively won the Philadelphia mayor’s office May 19 with his landslide win in the Democratic primary.
But that didn’t stop political donors from showering his campaign with cash.
Campaign finance reports show Kenney has raised nearly $1.3 million since the primary, even though Republican challenger Melissa Murray Bailey offered little competition in the general election.
Murray Bailey raised just $31,183 over the course of the year – about three days’ worth of Kenney donations in the same period.
I should note that Kenney did have a financial need beyond the non-competitive general election.
Campaign spokeswoman Lauren Hitt noted that that rules have changed on how inaugural and transition expenses can be funded.
Past mayors could set up non-profit corporations to raise money for those purposes, Hitt said, but “we now have to pay for transition staff, vetting services, inaugural events, etc. from our campaign committee – which is why we continued to fundraise.”
Kenney’s report shows he had $534,000 on hand as of November 23rd for those expenses and for future political spending.
But whether Kenney was raising money through a campaign committee or an inaugural fund, the motivation for many donors is the same. Why would they give Kenney more than a million bucks after he’d locked up the mayor’s office?
Everybody loves a winner, and if you’re somebody with a business or policy agenda, you want the incoming mayor to know your name. One sure-fire way to do that is to make a campaign contribution he’ll notice.
I spent a little time with the campaign reports filed Thursday, which covered the period from Oct. 20 to Nov. 23.
The Carpenters’ political action committee gave Kenney the maximum allowable donation of $11,500 two weeks after the Nov. 3 election. The union supported state Sen. Anthony Williams in the primary, and it is anxious to get its members working in the Convention Center again.
Also contributing $11,500 was OTG Management, a firm involved in food services at the airport.The maximum allowable contribution for individuals is $2,900 a year, and I counted 21 donations in that amount in Kenney’s final report.
One was from Bill Hankowsky, chairman of the real estate giant, Liberty Property Trusts.
Can’t buy me love
I don’t mean to suggest any of these donors are buying their way into city contracts or preferential treatment.
The good thing about city contribution limits is that you can’t legally toss around the kind of cash that would look like you’re buying the office.
The limits now allow you to make contributions that say you’re around, you’ve made a good faith showing of support. You got your ticket punched, but you don’t own the joint.
Super PACs, on the other hand, allow donors to make unlimited contributions for independent expenditures to get a candidate elected, and several unions made huge contributions to the Kenney cause that way.
The two super PACs supporting Kenney raised about $3.1 million in the Democratic primary. With Kenney’s fundraising since then, his year-end totals just about match the fundraising of his super PACs.
Murray Bailey was not supported by a super PAC.