Union PAC spends big for Boyle
The Building a Better PA political-action committee is better at running ads than answering questions.
A SHADOWY political-action committee, funded entirely by local building-trade unions, spent $354,032 in the two weeks before the May 20 Democratic primary election to help state Rep. Brendan Boyle win his party's nomination for the 13th District seat in the U.S. House.
Thirteen unions put up the cash for the PAC, Building a Better Pennsylvania, which registered in March with the Federal Election Commission to make "independent expenditures," but didn't have to report where the money came from until eight weeks after the primary.
We can now tell you that 67 percent of the money came from Local 98 of the International Brotherhood of Electrical Workers.
That union, the top political contributor in Pennsylvania, gave the PAC $100,000 and loaned it another $137,000, which has not been paid back, according to a new campaign-finance report.
Want to know more?
Join the club. But most of the people behind the PAC don't want to talk about it these days.
An independent expenditure PAC, according to federal election law, can spend unlimited money to influence an election as long as it is not coordinating with a particular candidate's efforts.
The group's registration and finance reports were submitted by Peter Nichols, a lawyer and consultant with offices at the New Jersey Democratic Party's headquarters in Trenton. He did not respond to our messages.
Wayne Miller, president of the Sprinkler Fitters Local 692, served as president of the PAC. He also ducked our questions.
Seems like a pattern, no?
Chris Rupe, Local 98's director of legislative affairs, was the PAC's secretary.
Rupe's boss, Local 98 leader John Dougherty, yesterday said union bosses plan to "keep this thing alive" to help level the playing field with wealthy contributors to so-called super PACs.
"We're going to compete with millionaires and billionaires," he said. "We're not going to let them play by a different set of rules."
The PAC's television commercials used video shot by the Boyle campaign and uploaded to YouTube for anyone to grab.
Very convenient, no?
Two of the firms listed in the PAC's finance report as doing the media work -one in Massachusetts, the other in North Carolina - have worked on previous campaigns with Ken Snyder, Boyle's political consultant. A third firm listed in the PAC's report for media work is four blocks from Snyder's Chicago office.
Small world, no?
Snyder said Boyle's campaign did not coordinate with the PAC.
He noted that two independent expenditure groups spent money trying to assist two of Boyle's three primary opponents, former U.S. Rep. Marjorie Margolies and Dr. Valerie Arkoosh.
Snyder said he doesn't suspect any coordination in those efforts.
The 13th District is split between Northeast Philly and Montgomery County. Boyle faces Republican Carson "Dee" Adcock, an Abington businessman, who lost a 2010 bid for the seat, in the Nov. 4 general election.
Thanks to Twitter and Jon Stewart's mockery on "The Daily Show," the use of stock footage produced by a campaign in a super PAC ad - or jokes at the candidate's expense - have become known as #McConnelling.
That's a reference to U.S. Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell, a Kentucky Republican who, like Boyle, posted made-for-TV clips of himself online so "independent" spenders can use them in supportive ads.
Eyeing the trend, the Philadelphia Board of Ethics is considering a crackdown in city elections on #McConnelling, which they call "re-publication of campaign communications or materials."
Ethics Board staffers this week proposed a change to the city's campaign finance regulations so the use of campaign-produced videos - as well as photos, fliers and brochures - would be considered candidate coordination.
Coordinated expenditures are treated as in-kind contributions, meaning money spent on ads with reproduced materials would fall under the city's contribution limits: $11,500 per year for a PAC, $2,900 per year for individuals.
The proposed rule change makes two exceptions: Opponents of the candidate can use the material against him or her and news media can use it in reports.
If it adopts the amendment, the Ethics Board expects a fight.
"You don't think there's going to be a First Amendment challenge to that?" chairman Michael Reed asked Director of Enforcement Michael Cooke, who presented the proposal.
"It's possible - but I do think it's constitutional," Cooke said.
"Turns out defending upgrades to the White House bowling alley is tougher than a 7-10 split. No matter how many zeros are attached to a dollar figure, Washington should spend hardworking taxpayers' money wisely or not at all, and I'm glad the House stopped this gutter ball."
- U.S. Rep. Pat Meehan, a Delaware County Republican, on Wednesday after inserting into federal funding legislation an amendment to prohibit the use of funds to refurbish the White House bowling alley.
The General Services Administration posted and then quickly retracted last week a request for bids to refurbish the single bowling lane in the White House and two more in the Eisenhower Executive Office Building next door.
- Staff writer Sean Collins Walsh contributed to this report.
On Twitter: @ChrisBrennanDN