THE CITY'S election machinery finally made it into the 21st century in November.

For the first time, the city posted unofficial election results on its Web site as the votes were counted on Election Night.

Anyone with a computer and Internet access could go to the Web and get ward-by-ward returns for any candidate in Philadelphia.

But it was an expensive trip to the Electronic Age. The city paid $353,710 for its Web setup, the money going to Danaher Controls, a firm that had already collected more than $24 million from the city since 2001, for building and servicing voting machines.

Local activists who spurred the city to ease access to election results are shocked at how much it cost.

"That's a mind-boggling number. It doesn't make any sense," said Dan Urevick-Ackelsberg, a Penn law student who protested last summer when he discovered that city political figures had been provided free Internet passwords to get election results that were unavailable to the general public.

"It's an obscene amount of money for the job, a real robbery of the city," said Stephanie Singer, a recently elected Center City Democratic ward leader who handles electronic-data issues in her day job at a real-estate-management firm.

"It doesn't pass the smell test," said a computer-science professor at Carnegie Mellon University, Daniel Sleator.

Danaher executives failed to answer repeated calls from the Daily News.

The city had already paid Danaher for a system that downloaded data from voting-machine cartridges and provided running totals to a limited number of computer users with passwords. Media outlets paid hundreds of dollars for the passwords, while political figures got them for free.

The new wrinkle was to eliminate the password requirement and provide the same running vote totals to anyone who visited the city's Web site.

"It sounds like something one programmer could throw together in a week or two, that's my intuition," Sleator said. For $20,000, he said, "you can buy a server computer that will handle millions of requests" for the data.

Allan R. Frank, the city's chief information officer, signed off on the expenditure. Frank told Clout he initially hoped the project could be handled as Sleator suggested. But Danaher had developed the initial software and the city had to rely on Danaher for a new application, Frank said.

"I made some attempt to bargain," Frank said. "I wish it was cheaper, but they were the only game in town. . . . In their defense, they did the job asked in a short period of time. It worked. It didn't go down on Election Night."

Danaher apparently realized it had the city over a barrel. A payment voucher moving through the city Finance Department warned: "This project must be paid prior to Tuesday 11/4/08 election or vendor threatens to limit Internet access to election results."

Mayor Nutter's office focused on just one point: The project was funded with federal money, not from the city budget. "You couldn't use this money to save the libraries," said spokeswoman Maura Kennedy.

A quiet celebration

Back in 2007, when most of the Democratic establishment was lining up to support Hillary Clinton for president, a relatively small group of local fundraisers was getting enthusiastic about a newcomer named Barack Obama.

Last night at Del Frisco's steak- house, at 15th and Chestnut, they planned a low-key celebration.

"A number of us wanted to get together before we go down to Washington to inaugurate a new president," said attorney Mark Alderman. "No fundraising, no more campaigning, just a chance to look back on an extraordinary ride."

Others in the group were said to include Jeff Shell, president of Comcast's programing group; lawyers Christopher Lewis and Christopher Booth; Rick Horowitz, president of RAF Industries; and Molly Rouse Terlevich, daughter of the late developer Willard Rouse.

Knox loan to McCaffery

Lots of candidates would like to tap multimillionaire Tom Knox for a campaign loan or two. District attorney candidate Dan McCaffery is hitting him up for personnel, hiring Knox's top aide, Josh Morrow, as his campaign manager.

Morrow, 35, who lives in Fairmount with a Doberman named Sadie, managed Knox to a second-place finish in last year's mayoral race. He says he'll continue working part-time on Knox's race for governor while focusing on the May 19 primary for D.A.

That's Amoore

While six men from various parts of the country are running high-profile campaigns to chair the Republican National Committee, Pennsylvania's Renee Amoore is one of three contenders for co-chair - the spot that the GOP reserves for women. She'd be the first African-American to win the post.

Amoore, 55, a former psychiatric nurse, owns a health-care-management-consulting firm in Montgomery County. Her only public office was a four-year stint on the Upper Merion school board in the early 1990s, but she has been deputy chairwoman of Republican State Committee for the past 12 years.

The spot will be filled Jan. 30, at an RNC meeting in Washington, by secret ballot. Amoore is not allied with any of the men running for party chairman, but the outcome of that contest could influence hers. Two of the candidates, J. Kenneth Blackwell, Ohio's former secretary of state, and Michael Steele, former lieutenant governor of Maryland, seek to become the first African-American to lead the national party. That post will be filled before the vote on co-chair. *

Staff writer Bob Warner contributed to this report.