Ethics bill with side of accusations

Councilwoman Carol Campbell seeks help for those filling out campaign finance forms. But a challenger in the May primary is making it personal.

On the same day Philadelphia City Councilwoman Carol Campbell introduced a bill calling for training to help candidates fill out ethics reports, a rival accused her of several violations of campaign-finance law.

Matt McClure, who is challenging Campbell for the Fourth District Council seat in the May 15 Democratic primary, claimed she had used a political-action committee she runs as a "personal checking account" and had failed to account for $70,000 in donations the committee received in 2005.

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Carol Campbell says amended filings covered missing data.

The allegations - which McClure filed with the city Ethics Board and the District Attorney's Office, as well as the state Attorney General's Office - center on a committee called Genesis IV, which Campbell founded in 2003.

According to McClure, seven individual $10,000 donations were made to Campbell's PAC in May 2005, from committees such as "Friends of John Perzel" and "Brad Moss for Judge." McClure claims that Campbell's PAC failed to disclose those donations.

McClure's complaint also cited a $10,000 contribution that Genesis IV received in January 2006. Genesis reported this to the state, but failed to identify the donor.

A review of the Genesis IV filings available on the state's online database of campaign-finance reports appears to support some of McClure's assertions. There was no mention made in the online reports of the $10,000 donations received in May 2005, and no donor identified for the $10,000 received in January 2006.

Lawyer Thomas Nocella, who spoke on Campbell's behalf, said she had been assured by the Genesis committee's treasurer - her brother, Edgar Campbell - that any information left out of the original filings had been filed later in amended returns.

Nocella, who is a Common Pleas Court judicial candidate, accused McClure of running a "smear campaign."

And he noted that some of McClure's allegations - including a claim that Carol Campbell used Genesis IV money to pay personal bills - were raised in McClure's failed attempt last month to have her tossed off the May 16 Democratic primary ballot.

Nocella received a copy of McClure's letter late in the day and was unable to rebut the allegations in detail. But he said he would soon meet with Edgar Campbell to get more information.

Last September, Carol Campbell's spokesman, Ken Snyder - who is now working for Campbell ally and mayoral candidate Bob Brady - told The Inquirer that Campbell had resigned the Genesis IV chairmanship.

But state officials said yesterday that they had not received notice of her resignation. They said their records show that Campbell remains the chairman of Genesis IV.

In 2001, Campbell was convicted of violating state campaign-finance law and sentenced to a year's probation.

"For too long, we've looked the other way on Carol Campbell's blatant disregard for the law," said McClure. He lamented that the Council seat once held by mayoral candidate Michael Nutter - who championed many of the city's campaign-finance laws - is "now held by someone who looks the other way."

Campbell did speak to reporters hours before McClure filed his complaint to discuss her ethics-training bill.

"A lot of candidates get in difficulty because they're not really cognizant of the intricacies involved in these laws," Campbell said.

When reminded that she had had her own difficulties with past campaign-finance filings, Campbell responded: "Well, I haven't, but my treasurer has."

She was referring not to her brother, but to past treasurers who worked for Campbell PACs that ran afoul of campaign-finance law in 2001.

"I think I wouldn't want anyone else to go through what I have gone through."

The bill that Campbell introduced yesterday in Council does not call for training in campaign-finance law. The Ethics Board already offers such training, and its attendance records show that a Campbell campaign representative was at the last training session.

Rather, her bill would require the board to show candidates how to complete the financial-disclosure forms they must file to run for public office.

The Ethics Board's interim executive director, J. Shane Creamer Jr., said the board was happy to help candidates.

But he cautioned that the board could not provide the "final word" on candidates' financial-disclosure forms because completing them was a state requirement, not a city one.


Contact staff writer Patrick Kerkstra at 215-854-2827 or pkerkstra@phillynews.com.