Sunday, January 25, 2015

Ethics Board aims to crack down on outside-spending groups that break rules

The Philadelphia Board of Ethics is proposing changes to the city's campaign-finance regulation that will make it easier to crack down on outside groups that make illegal expenditures.

Ethics Board aims to crack down on outside-spending groups that break rules

The Philadelphia Board of Ethics is proposing changes to the city's 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 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 possible violations, said Shane Creamer, the board's executive director.

"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 reform experts are begging the Federal Election Commission to do in Washington: Clarify what the rules for outside spending are to prevent the Wild West-like spending we saw in the 2012 election. 

Because the board's proposal would amend a city regulation, not 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.

About this blog
William Bender, a Drexel graduate who landed at the Daily News in 2007, has covered everything from South Philly mobsters to doomsday hucksters. He occasionally writes about local food trucks and always eats everything on his plate, whether it be a bloody rib eye or a corrupt politician. E-mail tips to benderw@phillynews.com
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Jenny DeHuff is a 2005 graduate of the University of Rhode Island, where she cut her teeth in journalism. A South Philly transplant from New England, she joined the Daily News City Hall Bureau in 2013. For the past several years, she has worked as an investigative reporter exposing corruption in suburban politics, covering sometimes ghastly criminal court cases and following the people’s money and how its spent. In addition to being a dogged news hound, she enjoys reading and writing about travel, animals, Irish whiskey and aviation. E-mail tips to dehuffj@phillynews.com
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David Gambacorta, has been a reporter with the Daily News since 2005, covering crime, police corruption and all of the other bizarre things that happen in Philadelphia. Now he’s covering the 2015 mayor’s race, because he enjoys a good circus just as much as the next guy. He’s always looking to get a cup of coffee. Send news tips and other musings on life to gambacd@phillynews.com
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