Faced with growing opposition, City Councilman Jim Kenney is now considering alternatives to his proposal to suspend campaign-contribution limits in the mayor's race.
Last week, Kenney introduced legislation lifting contribution limits in a mayor's race in which a self-funded candidate has kicked in $2 million or more. Businessman Tom Knox already has spent $2 million on TV ads.
Though Kenney's bill had 11 co-sponsors, it's been condemned by the Committee of Seventy, the Chamber of Commerce, Philadelphia Forward and a number of Council candidates.
Kenney said in an interview yesterday that he's drafting a bill that would mirror the "millionaires' exception" found in the McCain-Feingold federal election law.
"The original bill was a starting point for discussion of this phenomenon we've never encountered before," Kenney said. "There is an inequity here, and if this isn't an acceptable solution, we'll look for another one, or we may decide we have to just roll the dice and see if Tom Knox buys this election."
Kenney introduced his bill after the Daily News/Keystone poll showed the previously unknown Knox vaulting into second place in the race after his TV-ad buys.
The McCain-Feingold law provides for higher contribution limits when U.S. House and Senate candidates face self-funded opponents.
The higher limits differ in the House and Senate and depend on the level of millionaire spending, as well as the fundraising disparities among the candidates.
Depending on the circumstances, contribution limits may be up to six times higher in Senate races and three times higher in House races when a millionaire enters.
Kenney said he hopes to see both his original bill and the new one debated in a public hearing on Valentine's Day.
Kenney said he resented the comparison of his proposal to the 2005 legislative pay raise that sparked voter outrage across the state.
"I introduced my bill in a public session, to be considered in a public hearing with open debate. This was not a 2 a.m. ram-through," Kenney said. "If in the end it doesn't work, it will be withdrawn, but it's an issue worth talking about."