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Judge Rules Wagner Can Use His $300K Statewide Campaign Cash

Jack Wagner
Jack Wagner

Jack Wagner can use every dime of his statewide campaign cash in the Pittsburgh mayoral race, a judge ruled Wednesday.

Wagner has about $300,000 left over from his bids for Auditor and Governor.

City Councilman Bill Peduto’s campaign challenged his use of that money for a mayoral campaign under a city law which limits individual supporters to contributions of $2,000 and PACs to $4,000.

But those limits were voided when Michael Lamb loaned his campaign more than $50,000 late in 2012, per an exemption in city law, Allegheny County Common Pleas Judge Joseph M. James ruled.

Lamb is the City Controller who recently dropped his bid for Pittsburgh Mayor this week and endorsed Wagner.

The decision came just an hour after the same judge ruled that, without Lamb’s violation of the exemption, Wagner’s statewide cash couldn’t be used in the race.

“Dark day for government reform in Pittsburgh- Jack Wagner argues against campaign contribution limits after court upholds them-now no limits,” Peduto tweeted. He was an author and supporter of the contribution limit law.

It’s the first time the law has been challenged since it took effect in 2010.

State campaigns in Pa. have no contribution limits.

It’s not all bad news for Peduto, who reported $261,000 on hand at the end of January, the last time a report was due. He raised his cash with the limits, so now he can return to previous donors and solicit more funds. And his supporter Allegheny County Executive Rich Fitzgerald is a potent fundraiser.

State Rep. Jake Wheatley and activist AJ Richardson are also in the Democratic primary for Mayor.

4 Responses

  1. That is a misstatement of Davis v. FEC.

    The statute in Davis required an additional disclosure if a candidate intended to spend over $350,000 of his/her own funds, and triggered higher limits for the other candidates in the race, but not the candidate spending in excess of $350,000 of personal funds.

    The Pittsburgh Ordinance does not require additional disclosures in addition to the disclosures required by state law. In his Annual Report, Lamb disclosed that his personal contribution was over the $50,000 threshhold, in a disclosure that was required of all candidates (Annual Report).

    In addition, the Pittsburgh Ordinance lifts contribution limits for ALL candidates, including the candidate contributing in excess of the threshhold.

    The Supreme Court in Davis ruled that the required extra disclosure violated the First Amendment, as did the disparate limits that it triggered.

    Therefore, the facts and holding of Davis does not apply to the facts in the Pittsburgh case.

    Perhaps Rob should go back to law school and learn how to read cases.

  2. Mr. Fitzgerald has shown a great willingness to shake down County vendors and contractors to help his candidate, Mr. Peduto. As AG Kane’s indictments in the Turnpike case show, this can be an effective tactic to raise big bucks. Mr. Peduto’s attorney was smart enough to refuse Mr. Wagner’s offer of self-imposed contribution limits. So, I wouldn’t worry about Mr. Peduto accessing Mr. Fitzgerald’s roladex.

  3. To seek an injunction based on campaign finance law, Bill Peduto seems to have hired an attorney who knows nothing about basic campaign finance law.

    In Davis v. Federal Election Commission, 554 U.S. 724 (2008), the United States Supreme Court ruled the “Millionaire’s Amendment” (changing campaign contribution limits when one candidate spends $1 million or more of his or her personal money) unconstitutional (specifically, violative of the First Amendment).

    Though different in degree, the Pittsburgh provision has the same substantive effect as the former federal “Millionaire’s Amendment.” Therefore, that Pittsburgh provision also violates the First Amendment. No matter the governing body (here, the City of Pittsburgh), the First Amendment and US Supreme Court interpretations of it still apply. The City of Philadelphia has a similar provision (with a $250,000 threshold) that is equally unenforceable when a proper challenge is raised.

    Bill Peduto must have a campaign finance attorney who is wildly unqualified, incredibly lazy, or just plain slow. Real campaign finance attorneys know that simple case law on command. Candidates should learn to hire election law attorneys to handle election law matters.

  4. It’s not just Wagner’s $300K. Ravenstahl is sitting on a cool million. Of course, he might require it for continued travel and events.

    At least now they can BOTH solicit the big shots merrily. I’m sure television affiliates, printing shops and consultants are pleased. Not so much the working man.

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