Mayoral inaugural events in Philadelphia have ranged from Wilson Goode's $10-a-ticket ball in 1984 to the $10,000-per-couple dinner John Street hosted at the Rittenhouse Hotel in 2000.
The city ethics board said yesterday that mayor-elect Michael Nutter may raise money without restriction for his inaugural celebration and transition team, but Nutter has pledged to adhere to voluntary contribution limits and to disclose contributors and spending.
"I think we've set a new standard here," said Dick Hayden, a friend and adviser to Nutter who is working on the transition. "We wanted to get some clarification from the ethics board on the rules, and I think they appreciated that we came to them in advance."
Nutter will not use his inaugural events to raise money for his campaign fund, as some mayors and governors have.
Nutter established separate nonprofit organizations to fund his transition and inaugural festivities, and asked the ethics board to determine whether donations to those organizations would be considered contributions under the city's campaign-finance and pay-to-play laws.
The board found that those donations aren't political contributions, so Nutter is free to accept checks of any size.
But the board advised Nutter to limit contributions even more than he originally proposed, warning that big donations could "present a possible public perception that some donors were attempting to purchase influence with the new mayor."
Before yesterday's ethics- board meeting, Nutter had committed to limiting contributions to $5,000 from individuals and $20,000 from businesses or other organizations.
Those limits correspond to the political-contribution limits imposed on candidates in the mayoral primary. The usual limits of $2,500 per individual and $10,000 per political committee in the city's campaign-finance law were doubled this spring because a self-funded millionaire, Tom Knox, was in the race.
Ethics-board chairman Richard Glazier advised Nutter yesterday to use the lower contribution limit for his inaugural and transition committees, noting that Nutter may get donations from people who already had given the maximum-permitted political contributions during the campaign.
"I'm personally concerned about someone maxing out at 20 [thousand] and then giving another 20," Glazier said yesterday. "Forty thousand dollars is getting close to currying favor with the next mayor."
The board also advised Nutter to limit publicity given to individual donors and to reduce the need for large donations by charging ticket admission to as many inaugural events as possible.
Spokeswoman Melanie Johnson said the Nutter camp isn't ready to announce any inaugural events.