HARRISBURG - Money is flowing in contests for two open seats on the Pennsylvania Supreme Court, with candidates tapping their relatives, fellow lawyers and political connections for hundreds of thousands of dollars, according to campaign-finance reports filed six weeks before the May 15 primary election.
By far the biggest war chest belongs to Paul P. Panepinto, a Philadelphia Common Pleas judge who is competing for the Republican nomination against two candidates endorsed by the Republican State Committee.
Panepinto reported raising $286,325 and had nearly $235,000 on hand as of March 26, the closing date of the reports filed yesterday.
More than half of that amount came from a half-dozen Texas lawyers and businessmen whose contributions were solicited through a lawyer friend who is a major fund-raiser for President Bush.
Tim Saler, a campaign spokesman for Panepinto, said the fund-raiser - one of Bush's "pioneers," who raised $100,000 or more for him - knew the judge from work he did in the Philadelphia courts. Saler declined to identify the lawyer.
One of the GOP-endorsed candidates - Michael Krancer of Bryn Mawr, chief judge of the state Environmental Hearing Board - took in $136,000, nearly all of it from his family, and had nearly $119,000 on hand.
Krancer, a great-nephew of the late philanthropist Walter H. Annenberg, received contributions of $50,000 each from his father, Ronald Krancer of Boca Raton, Fla., and his wife, Barbara. He received $25,000 from his sister and $10,000 from Bruce Toll, vice chairman of Toll Bros. and chairman of Philadelphia Media Holdings L.L.C., which owns The Inquirer, Philadelphia Daily News, and Philly.com.
The other candidate endorsed by the state Republican Party, Superior Court Judge Maureen Lally-Green of Butler County, raised $63,625 and ended the reporting period with a balance of about $38,000.
On the Democratic side, Philadelphia Common Pleas Judge C. Darnell Jones II pulled in more than $169,000 for his campaign against two party-backed candidates - Superior Court Judges Seamus McCaffery of Philadelphia and Debra M. Todd of Allegheny County - and had about $47,000 on hand.
Among Jones' biggest contributors was the Philadelphia law firm Klehr, Harrison, Harvey, Branzburg & Ellers LLP, which gave $16,000. James Beasley and Dion Rassias, both Philadelphia lawyers, gave Jones $10,000 apiece.
Todd took in $50,400 and ended the reporting period with about $25,000 on hand.
McCaffery's campaign had not filed a report by 6 p.m. yesterday. His wife and campaign director, Lise Rapaport, said campaign officials were reviewing the numbers and planned to file the report before the midnight deadline for online filing.
A fourth Democratic candidate, Philadelphia Common Pleas Judge Willis W. Berry Jr., filed a statement attesting that he did not raise money for his campaign during the reporting period.