Tardy candidates face fines

City election officials are getting tougher with candidates about reporting last-minute donations to their political campaigns.

In the last two weeks of campaigns for any state or local office, any contributions of $500 or more are supposed to be reported within 24 hours to county election officials – in Philadelphia’s case, the city commissioners’ office at Delaware Ave. and Spring Garden St.  The contribution reports are considered public records, immediately open to inspection by reporters, other candidates and the general public.

Over the years, some candidates have followed the 24-hour rule, and others have not, failing to identify last-minute donors until more complete reports are due, 30 days after the election.  

This year, candidates are paying for their tardiness. Tim Dowling, who keeps track of campaign filings for the city commissioners, sent out letters last month to 37 candidates in the May primary, telling them that they owed a collective $27,550 in fines for late or missing reports.

The biggest of the bills ­-- $2,790 to Stephanie Singer, a Democratic candidate for city commissioner who is virtually certain to become one of Dowling’s bosses next January.  Her campaign was apparently unaware  that 24-hour reports had to be filed on paper with Dowling’s office, on top of electronic filings required  by the city Board of Ethics. “It was a staff mistake,” Singer said. “The fines were legit and I paid them,” Singer said.