The Philadelphia Board of Ethics is asking City Council and the Nutter administration to require local political candidates and committees to report their campaign finances more frequently than the current mandate.
In a letter sent to Mayor Nutter and Council President Darrell L. Clarke on Friday, ethics board chairman Michael Reed asked that Council consider amending the city code section that pertains to campaign finance rules.
The board would like to see the following:
Additional reporting. Candidates for local office and political committees would have to file campaign finance reports six weeks before an election. Currently they only have to report two weeks before the election.
Electioneering communication. Impose new reporting requirements on any person, including non-profit groups and political committees, who spends more than $2,500 in electioneering communication — any broadcast, print or internet communication that promotes or attacks a candidate — within 50 days of an election.
Independent expenditures. Require that independent expenditures who even mention a person as a candidate in that covered election must file a campaign finance report. Currently, independent expenditures only have to report their expenses if certain buzz words are used such as "vote for" or "don't elect."
Anti-funneling. Broaden the anti-funneling provision to include contribution made through any person, including not-for-profit organizations, and not just political committees.This would prevent an individual from donating more than $2,500 total to various groups, including PACs and non-profits, who would in turn donate to that individual's candidate of choice.
"These non-profits have emerged as political players," Shane Creamer, the board's executive director, said, citing the Citizens United U.S. Supreme Court case.
"We want to make sure we capture all entities," who could influence an election, Creamer said.
Reed's letter also talks about how Citizens United changed the way campaigns are funded.
"Significant money is now being spent by persons other than candidates and traditional political committees. Some of the spending is done through non-profits," Reed says. "These entities often try to exploit laws that have not kept pace with the changes wrought by court decisions."
If the proposed requirements become law, it wouldn't have an effect on the current primary race. However, they could be passed in time for the November general election.
Both Nutter and Clarke expressed support for the proposed changes.
"The Council President has been working with the Ethics Board on new disclosure requirements for more than a month now," Clarke's spokeswoman Jane Roh said. "He hopes to have legislation introduced and voted on in the coming weeks."
Mark McDonald, Nutter's spokesman, said:
"The Mayor favors the addition of new reporting requirements and the legislation recommended by the Board of Ethics," McDonald said. "He encourages City Council to address the issues raised in the legislative proposal as soon as possible to ensure transparency in our election process and the campaign finance system."
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