Outside spending for Congressional candidate tops $600K

In March, former Philadelphia Deputy Mayor Rich Lazer (second from right) launches his congressional race at a South Philadelphia playground. (Emma Lee/WHYY)

In March, former Philadelphia Deputy Mayor Rich Lazer (second from right) launches his congressional race at a South Philadelphia playground. (Emma Lee/WHYY)

When Rich Lazer announced he was running for Congress less than two months ago, he didn’t have a lot of time to raise money.

Not to worry.

A super PAC formed to support Lazer has now spent more than $500,000 on advertising, according to a source familiar with political media buys, and Local 98 of the electricians union has spent $111,170 on advertising, canvassing, lawn signs and “Lazer for Congress” hoodies, according to a Federal Election Commission report.

These “independent expenditure” groups are allowed — thanks to U.S. Supreme Court decisions — to accept unlimited contributions and spend as much as they want in campaigns, as long they don’t coordinate efforts with the candidates they’re assisting.

Besides its six-figure direct spending in support of Lazer, Local 98 of the International Brotherhood of Electrical Workers is the only known donor to the super PAC backing him, called the Middle Class PAC.

Local 98 gave $200,000 to the committee, according to its most recent campaign finance filing. Other donors may be revealed in subsequent reports.

The outside spending for Lazer so far is more than any of the 10 candidates for the 5th District have raised and nearly four times what Lazer had raised as of March 31, the candidates’ last reporting deadline.

The 5th District consists mostly of Delaware County, along with much smaller parts of South and Southwest Philadelphia and Lower Merion Township.

Lazer was Philadelphia Mayor Jim Kenney’s deputy mayor for labor before resigning to run for Congress.

Another super PAC in the race supports former federal prosecutor and congressional candidate Ashley Lunkenheimer.

That committee, Progress in Pa-05, has spent more than $37,000 on mailings in support of Lunkenheimer. None of its donors has yet been revealed.

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