Super PAC backs O’Neill in Philly DA’s race

     The labor-funded super PAC that fueled Mayor Jim Kenney's successful mayoral campaign two years ago is weighing in with a $123,000 ad buy that sources say will support Jack O'Neill in the Democratic primary for district attorney of Philadelphia. (NewsWorks file photo)

    The labor-funded super PAC that fueled Mayor Jim Kenney's successful mayoral campaign two years ago is weighing in with a $123,000 ad buy that sources say will support Jack O'Neill in the Democratic primary for district attorney of Philadelphia. (NewsWorks file photo)

    The labor-funded super PAC that fueled Mayor Jim Kenney’s successful campaign two years ago is weighing in with a $123,000 ad buy in the Democratic primary for district attorney of Philadelphia.

    Two sources familiar with the media buy said the Build a Better Pa Fund has bought the TV time to support the candidacy of former prosecutor Jack O’Neill.

    O’Neill, the last candidate to enter the contest, showed virtually no funds raised as of late March. But he has surged lately, securing the endorsement of eight Philadelphia-area building trades locals.

    Build a Better Pa is registered with the Pennsylvania Department of State as an “independent expenditure only” committee, an organization that pledges not to give to candidates but wage only independent communication efforts.

    Such groups can take unlimited contributions and spend unlimited sums as long as they don’t coordinate efforts with the candidates their communications support.

    In 2015, Build a Better Pa spent more than $1.6million to assist Kenney’s 2015 campaign, much of it from Local 98 of the International Brotherhood of Electrical Workers, led by business manager John “Johnny Doc” Dougherty.

    It’s not yet clear who is funding the effort for O’Neill.

    The chairman of the committee in 2015 was Wayne Miller, head of sprinkler fitters Local 692.

    Miller, whose union endorsed O’Neill last week, said in a phone interview that he had resigned from the chairmanship of Build a Better Pa last week.

    “I didn’t want to be associated with the independent expenditure, because I want to be pushing Jack’s campaign,” Miller said.

    Frank Keel, spokesman for the electricians’ union, did not immediately return a request for comment.

    Build a Better Pa is the second independent expenditure effort in the DA’s race. Candidate Larry Krasner is being supported by a $280,000 ad buy from a committee associated with liberal billionaire George Soros called Philadelphia Justice and Public Safety.

    The primary is May 16.

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