Nutter got most for money in primary

Knox's spending in the May primary totaled nearly $12 million. The winner needed less than half that.

Posted: June 15, 2007

In his failed attempt to become mayor of Philadelphia, millionaire Tom Knox burned through nearly $12 million, spending $161 for each of his 71,731 votes - far more than the amount shelled out by any of his four rivals in last month's Democratic primary.

Michael Nutter, who won to become the party's nominee in the November election, was significantly thriftier. He spent $43 per vote and less than half of what Knox spent overall, records filed yesterday showed.

Money, it turns out, wasn't everything.

When polls showed a surge of support for Nutter late in the campaign, it quickly translated into a surge in his mayoral bank account.

Between May 1 and June 4, Nutter raised $1.2 million - more than double the contributions received in the same period by the mayoral campaigns of U.S. Reps. Bob Brady and Chaka Fattah and State Rep. Dwight Evans.

But Knox still exceeded Nutter in those final weeks, pulling in $2.7 million - all but $100,000 from his own pocket.

In fact, Knox spent more money after May 1 - $3.5 million - than the amounts that Fattah, Evans or Brady raised throughout their campaigns.

Still, absent the Knox factor, Philadelphia's new cap on campaign contributions would have caused something unusual in politics: a decrease in the cash flowing into campaigns.

Altogether, the five Democrats spent a record $24 million. But if Knox had not dipped into his personal wealth to finance his campaign, the total would likely have been less than the $15 million spent in the 1999 mayoral primary, which also had five Democrats.

Fattah, who raised and spent the least money, ended the race - he came in fourth - nearly $600,000 in debt.

He owes money to, among others, his campaign strategist ($130,000); Montgomery McCracken, the law firm that represented him in a lawsuit to toss out the city's campaign caps ($70,000); the campaign's direct-mail vendor ($118,000); and the Sheraton Center City Hotel, where he held his election-night gathering ($13,000).

Among the many last-minute contributions was a donation to Brady from State Sen. Vincent J. Fumo (D., Phila.), who had played a role in persuading Brady to run. A day before the May 15 primary, Fumo dug into his Senate campaign committee to give Brady an in-kind donation of $20,000 for printing work.

Brady also got help from the Democratic City Committee, which he chairs. The party kicked over an in-kind contribution of $20,000 from one of its political action committees. This money was used to identify potential Brady voters, according to the report Brady filed.

Evans, who was hoping to get a boost from Gov. Rendell's near-endorsement, benefited in another way: Four days before the election, Rendell chipped in $10,000 to cover Evans' printing costs.

Then, in an equally unexpected move one day before the election, Evans received $15,000 from electricians' union Local 98, which was working to support Knox.

Evans pulled in money even after the election, including $5,000 from the campaign committee of former U.S. Sen. Bob Torricelli of New Jersey.

With the general election before him, Nutter - who drew 106,805 votes in the primary - is back on track raising money. Every day he phones potential donors, just as he did in the months before the primary.

"We raised it. We spent it. I'm happy I won, and I'm now going out to raise some more," Nutter said yesterday.

Whereas Mayor Street, the Democratic nominee in 1999, and Sam Katz, his Republican challenger, raised millions of dollars in the months leading up to the general election, neither party's candidate is likely to do so this time.

That's partly because Nutter already is widely viewed as the mayor-elect. Republican candidate Al Taubenberger has not lured big donor dollars or support, and the city's campaign caps are keeping spending down.

Unchallenged in the primary, Taubenberger raised significantly less than his Democratic counterparts - about $20,000 - and spent just $4,000. But he has said he hopes to ramp up his fund-raising throughout the summer.

Taubenberger, however, can claim one victory. For each and every one of his 17,449 votes, he spent less than a quarter.


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

Inquirer staff writer Dylan Purcell contributed to this article.

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