Philly candidates cull the herd

    Now the real rumble begins.

    Sixty-eight candidates have filed nominating petitions for municipal offices in Philadelphia, not counting a horde of judicial hopefuls.

    And now they’ll start scrutinizing one another’s nominating signatures, looking reasons to challenge a candidate’s petitions — bad addresses, expired registrations, voters belonging to the wrong party or none at all, and the big kahuna of petition screw-ups, “the kitchen table Job.”

    That’s a petition in which someone who couldn’t be bothered going door to door to collect signatures just looked at the neighborhood voter list and copied a bunch of names in the same handwriting.You think nobody would be that dumb, but you’d be wrong.

    Show us the money

    The other documents that will attract interest are candidates’ required statements of financial interest.

    Candidates who fail to report sources of income can find their campaigns stillborn.

    In 2005, City Controller candidate John Braxton omitted some loans and such, and when his filing was challenged he argued that it was an inadvertent, harmless error easily corrected with an amended filing.

    The state Supreme Court said, sorry, you get one chance to tell us your financial interests and do it right. We don’t want a situation where somebody can hide something that may prove embarrassing, knowing that if they’re caught they can file an amended statement and keep running. Thus the expression “fatal error” was associated with an incomplete statement of financial interests.

    Until 2007.

    That spring, U.S. Rep. Bob Brady’s mayoral bid hit a bump when a media report revealed he’d left his city pension off his financial statement (OK, the report was mine).

    Brady had great lawyers, and, in the end, got a ruling that the pension payment could be construed as a “government-mandated payment,” exempted from disclosure on an instruction sheet drafted by the state Ethics Commission. But the court said the commission should clarify the instructions.

    Brady stayed on the ballot, but only after a court battle that last weeks, cost him a bundle and seriously damaged his campaign.

    You’d think that this well-known history would ensure that every candidate carefully and thoroughly discloses his or her financial interests.

    I’m guessing not. We’ll know in a week, when challenges are filed.

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