Fattah's slip gives early look at money

Mayoral candidate Chaka Fattah missed a key reporting deadline this week, filing required information about his campaign's spending habits more than a month early.

That's right, early.

U.S. Rep. Chaka Fattah's report (due May 4): He had $588,672.

In what appeared to be an internal gaffe, the campaign on Tuesday submitted a finance report showing Fattah had spent more than $500,000 and had $588,672 on hand - even though he is not required to disclose those details until May 4.

So much for the competitive edge.

"We jumped the gun and filed a report that's not due," Fattah said last night. "It's a comical mistake, but not to the detriment of the public."

He also said the report would likely be amended today because of some errors found yesterday after it was filed with the city. Specifically, the campaign accepted "less than a handful of checks" from corporations, Fattah said. An aide said those donations, prohibited by state law, would be returned.

None of Fattah's four major rivals in the May 15 Democratic primary has officially shown his hand yet as far as recent fund-raising.

A spokesman for one, Dwight Evans, said last night that his candidate had $1.2 million in the bank. Others were reluctant to divulge their assets yet.

"We will raise as much money as we need to win within the rules . . . and you'll know how much that is May 4," Kate Philips, spokeswoman for Bob Brady, said yesterday.

For Fattah, the mistakenly released campaign-finance figures show the seven-term U.S. representative has pulled in nearly $1.1 million in his bid to win the primary.

That showing is in some ways anemic, considering two candidates, Michael Nutter and Dwight Evans, had raised at least that much by the end of last year. (Separately, Fattah raised $615,000 through his mayoral exploratory committee.) Another candidate, Tom Knox, is a millionaire businessman who is financing his own campaign, beginning with a $5 million loan.

Zach Stalberg, president of the good-government campaign group Committee of Seventy, said he had anticipated higher numbers from Fattah. "He knew long before he declared that he was going to be a candidate for mayor, so he had plenty of time to set up the machinery for it," he said.

By the campaign's estimate, its nearly $600,000 in cash affords it one week of television ads - not two. "Just one week of TV commercials in Philadelphia costs around $350,000," Fattah wrote supporters in a fund-raising e-mail last week.

Even so, Fattah's campaign appeared satisfied with its fund-raising effort. In a news release late Tuesday, the campaign stressed the "impressive support" it had received from "Philadelphians from diverse social and economic backgrounds."

Indeed, most of the money came from hundreds of individuals donating $250, $500 or $1,000. Some of the cash also came in larger checks from law firms, such as Klehr, Harrison, Harvey, Branzburg & Ellers ($19,500); Stradley, Ronon, Stevens & Young ($10,000); and Saul Ewing ($10,000).

Among other big givers were the campaigns of State Sen. Vincent Hughes ($15,000) and City Councilwoman Blondell Reynolds Brown ($20,000). Both are longtime Fattah allies. The Eagles gave $10,000.

All in all, this latest report shows Fattah has raised $740,364 since Jan. 1. He has spent $543,121, including $214,000 on payroll, though it is unclear exactly who is doing the work, since the campaign contracts with a payroll company named Paychex Inc.

As for the early filing, the source of confusion seemed to be that Tuesday was a reporting deadline, but only for statewide candidates.

Yesterday, campaign allies sought to put a good face on the gaffe. "Rather than undo or withdraw something, we're putting it out there," Fattah campaign adviser Mark Aronchick said.

Contact staff writer Marcia Gelbart at 215-854-2338 or mgelbart@phillynews.com.