A Common Pleas Court judge has ruled for a second time that U.S. Rep. Bob Brady can't exceed the city's campaign finance limits to raise money to pay the six-figure tab for the law firm, Cozen O'Connor, that helped him remain on the ballot in that race. And the firm can't forgive the debt, Judge Leon Tucker said in a ruling released Monday.
Brady still owes the law firm $448,648 for helping him defeat a ballot challenge from Tom Knox in the 2007 Democratic primary election for mayor. Knox finished second in the five-man race while Brady finished third.
The Philadelphia Board of Ethics told Brady after the primary that he could not exceed the campaign finance limits. Cozen then sued the Board of Ethics in 2008. Judge Gary DiVito dismissed that case, saying Cozen lacked standing to sue. The state Commonwealth Court agreed but the state Supreme Court in February 2011 overruled the lower courts, allowing Cozen O'Connor to take another shot at the case.
Stephen Cozen, the law firm's chairman, still insists that legal work to keep a candidate on the ballot is not the same thing as a contribution to influence an election. Tucker, in his ruling, disagreed with that argument.
"We’re a little bit disappointed and baffled by Judge Tucker’s decision," Cozen said. "Obviously we’re going right back to the Commonwealth Court and, if necessary, the Supreme Court."
Mike Reed, vice chairman of the Board of Ethics, in a statement released with Tucker's ruling said it "preserves the integrity of the city's campaign finance law."