Does Knox's knockout reduce campaign cap?

Posted: June 25, 2007

When Tom Knox spent millions of his own money to finance his campaign in last month's mayoral primary, a city law was triggered that automatically doubled how much his four rivals could raise.

But with Knox no longer in the race, should the caps sink back down?

That question has been posed by Zack Stalberg, president of the election watchdog group Committee of Seventy.

City rules say the higher limits stay in effect all year long - which Stalberg says doesn't make sense.

"Once the self-funded candidate exits the race, a strong argument can be made for reverting to the original contribution limitations," he wrote in a letter to the Philadelphia Board of Ethics. "To do so would hold down the total cost of the elections and also reduce the opportunity for pay-to-play - two key reasons for imposing limitations in the first place."

Stalberg hasn't called for changing the rules before the November election, but for the election cycle that follows.

So what says the author of the millionaire's exception? Not much right now. "It might be a legitimate issue," City Councilman W. Wilson Goode Jr. said. "It's not something I have thought about."

- Marcia Gelbart

Lefty bloggers go GOP

It's hardly a movement with mass support, but at least some of the city's self-styled progressive reformers may do some strategic voting in November. Bloggers on the avowedly lefty www.youngphillypolitics.com site are floating the idea of casting a vote for a Republican City Council candidate: David Oh.

The thinking is that a few thousand Democratic defectors wouldn't hurt the chances of the five Democratic at-large candidates, at least not in a city where Democratic voters outnumber Republicans 5-1. Meanwhile, they surmise, the progressive vote might be enough to tip the balance in the Republican contest to Oh, whom they see as a step up from incumbent Republican Councilman Jack Kelly.

The city charter reserves two of the seven at-large Council seats for the minority party. Each party has five Council nominees, but it would be stunning if the Democratic candidates didn't win their spots running away. Incumbent Councilman Frank Rizzo seems likely to win the top GOP spot, and Oh and fellow Republican nominees Patricia Mattern and Phil Kerwick will fight Kelly for the final Republican slot.

Oh, a lawyer and former assistant district attorney, thinks Philadelphia needs to enhance its status as an international business center and do more to attract young residents.

It's a message that resonates with some of the blog's readers, but certainly not all. Democratic Councilman W. Wilson Goode Jr. sure doesn't like the idea of the city's progressives voting for a Republican.

"Go ahead, make George Bush smile," he said in an online posting.

- Patrick Kerkstra

Fumo: I still do my job

He has shed a few board memberships and dropped off the powerful appropriations committee, but indicted Sen. Vincent J. Fumo wants it known that he's still hard at work.

Fumo, who faces federal fraud, conspiracy, and obstruction-of-justice charges, appears eager to put his First Senate District constituents at ease, reaffirming to them that he's fully engaged in his public job.

"Over the past several months, you have most likely seen or heard of accusations directed against me by the U.S. Attorney for Eastern Pennsylvania. I realize that this has probably created many questions and concerns in your mind," he wrote in a recently mailed newsletter.

"It pains me greatly that I cannot tell you my side of the story now," he wrote, repeating some of what he said Feb. 5 from the floor of the Senate, on the eve of his indictment. "Other than the impact on my family, the thing that saddens me the most about these events is that many residents of my senatorial district - who believed in me, trusted me, and voted for me - might feel now that I have let them down."

Hence, Fumo's written plea to his constituents, which included a reminder about being innocent until proved guilty. The trial won't begin until at least next year.

"Until then, I remain on the job as your state senator, as determined as I have always been to do everything in my power to improve our district, our city and our state."

- Marcia Gelbart

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