If you turned on a television in the last week, chances are you saw City Councilman Allan Domb.
The millionaire real estate broker’s early wave of reelection campaign commercials was everywhere, as rumors swirled in City Hall that Domb would scrap his bid for a second term and run instead in the May 21 Democratic primary against Mayor Jim Kenney.
We’ll know for sure Tuesday, the deadline for candidates to submit petitions to get on the primary ballot. Nearly 50 Democrats and 10 Republicans have pulled petitions to seek City Council’s seven at-large seats.
Domb could shake things up even if he stays in the Council race, by triggering the “millionaire’s provision” in the city’s campaign finance law. Contribution limits double from $3,000 to $6,000 for individuals and $11,900 to $23,800 for political action committees if one candidate in a race invests $250,000 or more of personal money in a campaign.
Domb sank $275,000 into broadcast and cable television air time for the week that ended Wednesday, according to a media buyer who did the math for Clout.
For context, Domb ended 2018 with $272,754 in his campaign account. And he told us this week that he has raised $130,000 to $140,000 from donors since Jan. 1. Domb already has given his campaign nearly $20,000 in “in-kind” contributions, mostly event expenses, since 2016.
Domb said he is not sure if or when he will trigger the provision doubling contribution limits. But he plans to air more television commercials.
David Thornburgh, president of the good-government group Committee of Seventy, said the political class that cuts checks for candidates can’t be too happy about the prospects of doubling limits.
“The limits tie their hands, conveniently,” Thornburgh said. “All of the sudden, the handcuffs have been taken off.”
Domb pumped $996,375 into his successful 2015 run for Council, triggering the provision two weeks before the primary.
Political consultant Neil Oxman said candidates who pull low numbers will then raise more money. But he questioned whether doubling the limits would have much of an impact in a crowded race.
“A couple of thousands of dollars is not even a decent week of Philadelphia TV,” Oxman said.
Local 98 of the International Brotherhood of Electrical Workers is still salty after State Rep. Jared Solomon called last week for City Councilman Bobby Henon to resign. Henon, Local 98 leader John “Johnny Doc” Dougherty, and six other union officials were indicted Jan. 30, accused of embezzling more than $600,000 in union funds.
Local 98 gave Solomon $5,000 in 2015. Concerned Irish Americans of Philadelphia, a political action committee funded by the union, gave him $25,000 in 2016.
Brian Eddis, a Local 98 official and treasurer of Concerned Irish Americans, wrote to Solomon this week demanding return of the $25,000 and threatening “engagement of our legal representatives” if that didn’t happen.
“I’m not sure what they’re going to sue me for,” Solomon said. “Not being their puppet?”
Local 98 spokesperson Frank Keel promised that Solomon’s “road to reelection just got a lot rougher.”
Solomon says he is giving $10,000 each — the $25,000 plus Local 98′s $5,000 — to three groups that help children in his Northeast Philly district.
“I can’t give it back so it goes for more snow removal and home repairs at Johnny Doc’s house,” said Solomon, citing some of the charges from the indictment about alleged misspending of union funds.
Movita Johnson-Harrell, the Democratic nominee for a special election in West Philly’s 190th District of the state House, is favored to win, despite a long string of financial troubles that came to light with her candidacy. Eighty-seven percent of the voters in the district are Democrats.
Johnson-Harrell, who stepped down in February as a crime victim’s advocate in the Philadelphia District Attorney’s Office, last year closed the personal-care home she operated, and she filed for bankruptcy in November, citing $607,429 in liabilities. That includes a $465,000 default judgment from a loan secured by the properties where she ran her business. She also has been the subject of several liens for unpaid Philadelphia property taxes, including three more filed by the city Monday.
Johnson still managed to scrape together $15,000 to lend her campaign last month, according to a campaign finance report she filed last week. Her Republican opponent, Michael Harvey, showed just $551 in his campaign account. Reports for two independent candidates, Amen Brown and Pastor Pam Williams, were unavailable.