Saturday, October 25, 2014
Inquirer Daily News

Ethics Board aims to crack down on outside-spending groups that break rules

The Philadelphia Board of Ethics is proposing changes to the city's campaign-finance regulation that will make it easier to crack down on outside groups that make illegal expenditures.

Ethics Board aims to crack down on outside-spending groups that break rules

The Philadelphia Board of Ethics is proposing changes to the city's campaign-finance regulation that will make it easier to crack down on outside groups that make illegal expenditures.

Under city law, an outside group making independent expenditures cannot coordinate with a candidate's campaign. If it does, the group is subject to spending limits like everyone else who donates to a campaign. And if they exceed those limits, they could find themselves before the Board of Ethics.

But the regulation's language about coordinating was too vague for the board to enforce possible violations, said Shane Creamer, the board's executive director.

"We're trying to set some boundaries here," Creamer said. "In past election cycles, we have observed what are independent expenditures that appear to be close to the definition of a coordinated expenditure, but the existing definition of a coordinated expenditure was not sufficient to provide guidance to those groups making those expenditures or to the board staff making a determination as to what side of the line it was on."

Essentially, the board is attempting to do in Philly what campaign-finance reform experts are begging the Federal Election Commission to do in Washington: Clarify what the rules for outside spending are to prevent the Wild West-like spending we saw in the 2012 election. 

Because the board's proposal would amend a city regulation, not law, it does not need to be approved by Council. The public can comment on the issue at the next board meeting on Jan. 23.

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