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Editorial | Nutter Limits Donations

Honoring the law's letter and spirit

Mayor-elect Michael Nutter keeps showing Philadelphians why they were right to elect him as a reform candidate. He's even agreed to limit donations to pay for his transition and inauguration to the same amounts allowed for a regular political campaign.

Nutter didn't have to do that. Since the groups raising money for the transition and inaugural are nonprofits and not campaign related, they could have accepted donations in any amount.

Nutter initially committed to capping donations at the same levels as those allowed by law for an election: $5,000 for individuals and $20,000 for businesses. But he then sought guidance on funding the two nonprofits from the city Board of Ethics.

The ethics panel noted that the donation limits for this year's mayoral election were double the standard caps and were triggered when Tom Knox put $250,000 of his own money into his losing Democratic primary bid.

The board instead recommended that Nutter limit inauguration and transition donations to $2,500 for individuals and $10,000 for businesses. It also warned that soliciting unlimited donations risked the perception "that some donors were attempting to purchase influence with the new mayor."

That was sound advice, and Nutter accepted it. To his credit, he also directed that the nonprofits post donors' names and contributions on the Internet.

This transparency - and Nutter's willingness to seek guidance in the first place - are more good and hopeful signs for the citizens of a city that in the past has suffered from public officials' playing it loose and easy.