FORMER U.S. Rep. Marjorie Margolies has run her bid to retake her old 13th District seat like an economic stimulus plan for a handful of political consultants.
She spent more than she took in for the last three months of 2013 and the first three months of this year. But did she violate a federal law in the process?
State Sen. Daylin Leach, a rival in the May 20 Democratic primary election, filed a Federal Election Commission complaint this week accusing Margolies of illegally spending campaign cash on primary expenses when that money was reserved for the general election.
Contributions reserved for the general election must be held separately so a candidate who loses the primary election can refund it to campaign contributors.
The Margolies camp counters that a 2009 FEC ruling on a similar case, involving a Republican Congressional primary in New Hampshire, proves they broke no law. The FEC ruling there found the candidate had enough money at the end of the financial reporting period to cover the cash reserved for the general election.
Margolies filed a report last week showing she finished the last quarterly reporting period in the black - just barely - with $2,800 left for the primary and $157,000 for the general.
Leach yesterday called on Margolies to drop out of the race for the seat, which represents parts of Northeast Philly and Montgomery County.
One of her consultants, Ken Smukler, dismissed Leach's complaint as a campaign stunt.
"Daylin Leach has become the carnival barker of this Congressional race, frantically trying to get attention for his desperate campaign," Smukler said.
Here's how Leach responds: "It's sort of Politics 101 to say, whenever someone attacks you or complains about something, that it's desperation."
Margolies yesterday hired attorney Karl Sandstrom, a former FEC commissioner, to handle the complaint. He vouched for her claim that the 2009 FEC ruling shows she did nothing wrong.
Leach and his attorney, Adam Bonin, adamantly disagree that the complaints are comparable.
They cite the federal rule in question, which says candidates must have cash "at all times equal to" the amount of money set aside for the general election. Leach's complaint tracks Margolies' spending day to day, showing what appears to be use of general election money in mid-January.
Both sides agree on one thing: The FEC won't decide anything about Leach's complaint until well after the primary.
Several political insiders say three potential replacements are being considered in case state Sen. LeAnna Washington, charged with using state resources to pay for political fundraisers, wins re-election in the 4th Senate District this year but then has to step down.
We hear they are: Dan Muroff, Democratic committeeman in the 9th Ward; Joe Meade, director of government and external affairs at the Philadelphia Museum of Art; and Derek Green, special council to City Councilwoman Marian Tasco.
Muroff and Green declined to comment about the rumor.
Meade tells us: "Should it become a reality, I would certainly welcome and entertain the opportunity."
None of this sits well with the two Democrats challenging Washington in the primary, Brian Gralnick and Art Haywood.
"It's unfortunate that neither Brian or I are on the list, since we're the ones actually in campaigns," Haywood said.
Washington, who will be formally arraigned May 7 on two felony charges, "plans to win re-election, beat these trumped-up charges and continue to serve the constituents of her district for many years to come," according to spokesman, Frank Keel.
She knows nothing about replacement rumors, Keel added.
The district covers parts of Philadelphia and Montgomery County. U.S. Rep. Bob Brady, chairman of the Philadelphia Democratic Party, and Marcel Groen, Democratic chairman in Montgomery County, say they know nothing about the replacement rumor.
"I'm sure there's been lots of informal conversations among people," Groen said.
News that City Controller Alan Butkovitz has hired Joe Slade White & Co. as consultants for an expected 2015 run for mayor reminds us that the national firm - whose best-known client is Vice President Joe Biden - has run successful anti-school-voucher campaigns in Michigan and Colorado.
Why is that relevant?
Butkovitz is all but certain to face state Sen. Anthony Hardy Williams in the 2015 Democratic primary election for mayor. Williams ran for governor in 2010 on a very pro-voucher platform.
Butkovitz appears ready to use that record against Williams.