THE PHILADELPHIA Board of Ethics is moving to change a city campaign-finance regulation that will make it easier to crack down on outside groups that make illegal expenditures.
Under city law, an outside group making independent expenditures cannot coordinate with a candidate's campaign. If it does, the group is subject to spending limits like everyone else who donates to a campaign. And if they then exceed those limits, they could find themselves before the Board of Ethics.
But the regulation's language about coordinating was too vague for the board to enforce some possible violations, said Executive Director Shane Creamer.
"We're trying to set some boundaries here," Creamer said. "In past election cycles, we have observed what are independent expenditures that appear to be close to the definition of a coordinated expenditure, but the existing definition of a coordinated expenditure was not sufficient to provide guidance to those groups making those expenditures or to the board staff making a determination as to what side of the line it was on."
Essentially, the board is attempting to do in Philly what campaign-finance reformists are begging the Federal Election Commission to do in Washington: Clarify the rules for outside spending to prevent the Wild West-like spending seen in the 2012 elections.
Because the board's proposal would amend a city regulation, not a law, it does not need to be approved by Council. The public can comment on the issue at the next board meeting on Jan. 23. It will likely vote on the issue in the following meeting.
On Wednesday, the five-member board unanimously elected Michael H. Reed, an attorney at the firm Pepper Hamilton, to be its new chairman. He replaced Richard Glazer, whom Mayor Nutter reportedly asked recently to step down. Six years ago, Glazer became the board's first chair after it was turned into an independent agency.
The board also swore in a new member, lawyer Brian McCormick, of Sheller, P.C. One vacancy remains.