Nutter donations to council members criticized

One of Mayor Nutter's most vocal critics, former Democratic candidate for City Controller Brett Mandel, leveled some explosive charges in a mass e-mail earlier this week. Here's a taste:

"Just before he introduced his budget and proposed balancing his spending plan with a new tax on sugary drinks and trash collections, Mayor Nutter made a series of remarkable campaign donations from his 'Nutter For Mayor' fund. Even though members of City Council are not up for re-election for another year, Nutter's campaign account donated $10,600 -- the maximum amount permissible by law -- to a number of Council members in the days leading up to his budget address. At best, this looks like an attempt to 'buy' votes."

Mandel is referring to two Nutter donations which showed up on recent campaign filings, one to Councilman Bill Greenlee on Feb. 25, and another to Marian Tasco on March 1. Both contributions were made shortly before Nutter's March 4 budget address.

It is not remotely unusual for politicians to make contributions to other elected officials. But in Mandel's view the timing of these donations does not look good.

It is possible, however, that the timing was simply coincidental.

Both Tasco and Greenlee said they asked Nutter for the donations. And both solicited his help at regularly scheduled fund-raising events for their campaigns.

“From time to time the mayor is asked by progressive Democratic candidates to support their re-election efforts, and these two City Council people fall under that category,” said Scott Freda, Nutter’s campaign finance director.

Asked if the mayor was trying to “buy” support for his budget, Freda said “absolutely not.”

Tasco and Greenlee both said the donations had nothing to do with the budget. Tasco has supported most of the mayor’s key budget proposals this year, but Greenlee has consistently opposed the sugary drinks tax, which has emerged as one of Nutter’s top budget priorities.

Nutter made identical $10,600 donations late last year to Councilman Jim Kenney and Councilman Curtis Jones Jr. In those cases too the council members asked for the cash.

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