Cozen O’Connor did about $450,000 of legal work to help Democratic U.S. Rep. Bob Brady fight a ballot challenge from rival Tom Knox in the 2007 mayor’s race.
Late last month, the firm won a battle in its ongoing legal skirmish over whether that work should count as a campaign contribution. On Dec. 29, the state Supreme Court agreed to hear the part of the case that turns on whether Cozen, as a creditor, had legal standing to make the argument.
It’s not clear yet whether that decision will give Cozen an opening to argue its broader point in the case.
In 2008, Cozen sued the Philadelphia Board of Ethics over its ruling that the legal work was subject to contribution limits of $5,000 for individuals and $20,000 for political committees. That would have forced Cozen to forgive the debt at a rate of $20,000 a year or forced Brady’s political action committee to repay that amount yearly.
That option seems “silly,” Cozen lawyer Adam Bonin said. “It cannot have been Council’s intent to have a 2007 campaign committee technically active for decades after the campaign’s actual termination.”
Cozen argues that the work should not count as a campaign donation for two reasons: Candidates should not have to worry about amounts spent to keep themselves on the ballot, and money collected after an election “cannot possibly influence the outcome of the 2007 election,” according to a court filing.
Shane Creamer, executive director of the Board of Ethics, said Cozen’s logic would allow candidates to back-load vendor payments and “effectively undermine our limits. … Candidates could go to their donors and say, ‘Give me unlimited amounts of money.’”
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