Berks County Elections Board accuses Local 98 in 2011 races

The Berks County Board of Elections, in a report released yesterday, accuses Local 98 of the International Brotherhood of Electrical Workers of funneling campaign contributions through the 2011 Reading mayor's race to circumvent Philadelphia's campaign contribution limit.

The board said Local 98 had Reading Mayor Vaughn Spencer drive to Philadelphia four days before the 2011 general election to pick up a campaign contribution of $30,000.  Spencer's campaign then wrote two checks that day, each for $10,000, as contributions to the campaigns of Philadelphia City Councilman Bill Green IV and Bill Rubin, another candidate for Council in that election.

John Dougherty, business manager of Local 98, denounced a finding by the Berks County Board of Elections.

Local 98 was already at or near the city's $10,600 limit for contributions from political action committees for Green and Rubin in that election, the report said.

The board took testimony under oath from Spencer and his campaign manager, political consultant Mike Fleck, and concluded they could not offer a "credible explanation" for why Spencer's campaign contributed money to the campaigns of Rubin and Green.

"The simultaneous swap of funds between Local 98 and [Spencer's campaign] and the contributions to the candidates, just four days before the election, can only lead to the conclusion that it was part of an agreement with Local 98, [Spencer's campaign] and Fleck to funnel additional contributions from Local 98 to Rubin and Green in violation of the Philadelphia Code of Ethics," the report said, adding that the findings have been sent to the Philadelphia Board of Ethics and the Berks County District Attorney's Office.

John Dougherty, Local 98's business manager, denounced the report as a "partisan witch-hunt."

"This is two white Tea Party commissioners chasing an African-American mayor," Dougherty said. "There's nothing illegal with this."

The Berks County Commissioners serve as the Board of Elections.  The commissioners, including one Democrat and two Republicans, unanimously approved the report.

"I can't dignify such a pathetic comment with a response," Berks County Commissioner Mark Scott said when told of Dougherty's claims.  Scott is chairman of the Board of Elections.