The mysterious Washington, D.C., committee that spent about $60,000 on television ads against mayoral candidate Tom Knox was funded with a $100,000 donation from the painters' union, according to a report filed with city election officials.
After ignoring state election laws for the past two weeks, the group calling itself "Working People for Truth" disclosed yesterday that it received $100,000 on April 27 from the International Union of Painters and Allied Trades, also based in Washington.
The union is headed by James A. Williams, a Philadelphia native who is friendly with U.S. Rep. Bob Brady, one of Knox's rivals in the mayor's race.
The international gave as heavily as it could directly to the Brady for Mayor campaign, making the maximum $20,000 donations in both 2006 and 2007.
It sent additional money indirectly, donating $20,000 last year to Unity 2001, a political action committee headed by one of Brady's congressional employees, which also donated $20,000 to Brady's mayoral campaign.
In spite of those connections, Brady said yesterday that he knew nothing about the union's support of the anti-Knox ads and had nothing to do with the Working People for Truth.
"I know Jimmy Williams but I never had a contact" about the Working People for Truth, Brady said.
Knox's campaign manager, Josh Morrow, said yesterday he didn't buy Brady's account. He noted similarities between the ads placed by the Washington group and the anti-Knox ads run by Brady's own campaign.
"Those ads do not pass the smell test, that these two groups were supposed to be completedly independent," Morrow said. "I think this is another example of Bob Brady not fully disclosing his relationships."
Calls to the union's offices in Washington were not returned.
Pennsylvania election law requires political committees trying to influence local or state elections to file pre-election reports on their fundraising and expenditures.
The report from the Washington group was due May 5, but it filed nothing with the city commissioners until yesterday, making it impossible for voters in the May 15 primary to know who was financing the anti-Knox ads.
Timothy Dowling, an election law specialist with the city commissioners, said the group's chairman, Washington attorney Donald R. Dinan, would be assessed a late-filing penalty. But under state law, it will amount to only $150, he said.
The mayor's race was conducted under a new city ordinance limiting the size of contributions to candidates. Political committees were allowed to donate no more than $20,000 and individuals were limited to $5,000.
But the limits applied only to contributions made directly to candidates - not to supposedly independent committees like the Washington group.
The chairman of the city Board of Ethics, Richard Glazer, said last week the board intends to make proposals to strengthen the city's campaign-finance rules. One issue the board plans to study, he said, is the role played by ostensibly independent committees. *