Philadelphia's Board of Ethics approved a series of amendments to the city's campaign-finance rules Wednesday, the most significant aimed at tightening restrictions on what constitutes a third party's support of a candidate.
Specifically, the board approved an amendment to address the reuse of campaign materials produced by a candidate, but then picked up and distributed by an individual or political action committee independent of the candidate.
Under the new rule, such reuse would be considered an in-kind campaign contribution and thus would fall under the city's campaign rules that limit such contributions to $2,900 for individuals and $11,900 for political action committees, or PACs.
A third party does not need to obtain the material directly from the campaign to fall under the rule. For instance, if a campaign posts a supportive video on YouTube - an increasingly popular and relatively inexpensive tactic - it would be considered an in-kind contribution for a third party to download that video and turn it into a paid political ad.
The third-party support of candidates is expected to play a major role in the 2015 mayor's race as tightened contribution limits will make it harder for candidates to raise significant funds.
Independent PACs are not restricted to how much they can raise from individuals. They also face no restrictions on how much money they spend in support of a particular candidate, as long as there is no "coordination" between the PAC and the candidate - the PAC must be totally independent of the candidate.
At a hearing last month, Adam Bonin, a lawyer who specializes in election law, had argued that the amendment aimed at reuse of campaign material was too broad.
He was still uncertain of new language proposed Wednesday and asked the board to delay a final vote until next month.
While Board Chairman Michael Reed was initially sympathetic, board members Sanjuanita González and Phyllis Beck expressed concern that with the 2015 mayor's race looming, the amendments needed to be approved as soon as possible. And they were, by a unanimous vote of the five-member board.
Other changes included reworking of sections dealing with funds raised and spent by candidates before they declared their candidacies. Reed acknowledged that much of it might have little interest outside of the board and those it oversees.
"This is not something the average citizen needs to understand," he said, "this somewhat dense material."