Running for the mayor of the 5th largest city in the United States does not come without forking out a large sum of money. To run for mayor in Philadelphia you have to be ready to spend millions-either your own or money you receive through soliciting campaign donations. The latter is something that has become increasingly challenging since candidates running for city offices are limited by contribution caps set at $2,900 for individuals and $11,500 for organizations.
The Philadelphia campaign finance rules are being called some of the most restrictive in the country and the campaign has already lost a candidate because of the difficulty of raising money.
“The money was a big factor,” Gillen was quoted saying in an interview back in January when she announced she was dropping out of the race. She had manage to raise more than $225,000 from more than 500 donors at that time and still didn’t believe that it was enough to compete and have the kind of campaign she wanted.
No candidate in this 2015 election has yet to cross the half-million mark. Lynne Abrahams is leading the pack with approximately $488,000, followed by Anthony H. Williams with $466,000 and James Kenney with just over $116,000.
One candidate, T. Milton Street, has yet to raise $5,000. This is a stark contrast to the 2007 election-the last time an incumbent was not running- where three of the major candidates had passed the million dollar mark this far into the election. Thomas Knox, Michael Nutter and Dwight Evans had a combined total of $6 million by this time of the election process.
So where exactly are the candidates going to get money from to finance their campaign needs? All arrows point to Super PAC’s (Political Action Committees).
PAC’s are independent and therefore not beholden to the fundraising limits that the candidates face. As long as they don’t coordinate with campaigns, they can spend unlimited amounts of money to influence the mayor’s race.
The first TV ad to run for a candidate didn’t occur until March 11, and it was by political action committee Building a Better Pennsylvania-in support of James Kenney.
That was the first time in the history of the Philadelphia mayoral race that the opening TV ad was aired by an outside group instead of the candidate. Kenney left it up to the Super PAC, instead of his campaign, to introduce him to potential voters.
By the start of the New Year in 2007, candidate Tom Knox had already spent an additional $2million on early T.V. ads.
What’s to blame for the lack of money, week fundraising or waiting on “dark money” from these Super PACS? Whatever the reason, it does not seem like these candidates will be able to catch up to the earning power of the 2007 election. Hopefully, the lesson to be learned from this for future candidates is, money doesn’t always win elections.
– Text and visualization by Rochelle Brown