The debt looked staggering, and the timing could not be worse.
Was Pennsylvania’s largest local Democratic party really $164,000 in the red, heading into what is expected to be the most expensive presidential election cycle in history, in a potentially decisive swing state?
Turns out, no.
Philadelphia’s Democratic City Committee says its inability to account for wire transfers meant a $200,000 contribution from the state party 15 months ago never showed up in campaign finance reports.
So the local party filed annual campaign finance reports for 2018 and 2019 listing a ballooning debt that existed only on paper.
Bob Brady, chairman of the party, laughed off the concerns that had been rumbling in Democratic circles since he announced a coordinated campaign to raise money to register, educate, and turn out voters for the Nov. 3 general election.
Brady vowed that the effort will incorporate “new ideas and techniques for organizing” while reaching out to “young and diverse” activists. Maybe some of them will have solid wire-transfer skills.
And Brady’s language seems to set to rest recent political skirmishes between the party machinery and upstart progressives who backed third party candidates.
Clout dubbed the effort “the Committee to Reinstate Street Money,” since John Kerry was the last Democratic presidential nominee to put up the $350,000 the local party has traditionally asked for to fund get-out-the-vote efforts.
Some Clout fans perused the party’s reports after hearing of the new fundraising effort and raised alarms.
“We don’t go by the report. We go by the bank account statements," Brady said. “I don’t look at the reports. I say, how much money do we have?”
Edgar “Sonny” Campbell Jr., a West Philly ward leader, has been the party’s treasurer since 2018. The party’s 2019 report, filed Jan. 31, listed a negative cash balance of $164,399, up from $93,752 in red ink in the 2018 report.
Brady said the party worked with the Philadelphia Board of Ethics to correct its reporting. An amended report filed Wednesday now shows a positive cash balance of $85,570.