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Thursday, December 09, 2004

Pennsylvania Part Two: Folly in Philly

Last December, the city council of Philadelphia, PA overrode a veto by Mayor Street to pass an ordinance limiting campaign contributions to candidates in city races. Effective since January 1, 2004, the ordinance limits political action committee (PAC) contributions to candidates for Mayor or City Council to $5,000 a year and individual contributions to the same races to $1,000 a year. Sort of.

As Bob Warner of the Philadelphia Daily News reports, the city's lawyer, City Solicitor Pedro A. Ramos, has very nearly gutted the ordinance by issuing an opinion that the contribution limits don't apply to candidates who have not taken formal steps towards their candidacy by either officially announcing their candidacy or by filing the paperwork to become a candidate. In other words, rake in all the money you can in unlimited chunks, then announce your candidacy. Brilliant.

Ramos's ruling did broach the possibility that candidates might be restricted from using the money which exceeded the contribution limits during the campaign. One councilmember, Michael Nutter, is treating Ramos's ruling with the deference it deserves:

"We passed the bill and I know what the spirit of the bill is," Nutter said. "We're trying to deal with the excessive amounts of money that are in these campaigns, the unlimited fund-raising... I'm trying to comply with the provisions, whether they apply to me or not."

Hopefully the folks across the state in Pittsburgh are taking note of the Philly follies as they craft their own reforms.

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