The policy ensures that any group that spends money to influence a Philadelphia election must file campaign finance reports, including non-profit organizations.
According to Dave Davies of WHYY, groups which register as charitable organizations will no longer be able to keep their donors secret. They will be held to the same standard as Super PACs.
The decision was sparked by a last-minute TV ad that attacked mayoral candidate (and eventual victor) Jim Kenney. The group funding the ad was a non-profit organization called Leadership Matters. After an inquiry, they filed an expenditure report revealing that they spent $93,000 on the TV spot, but did not reveal the source of their funds. Now they’ll have to produce a post-election report including their donors’ names, addresses, occupations, and employers by June 18th.
Davies calls the policy a “remarkable” step in the right direction towards political transparency, and predicts that even more stringent regulations may come. For example, he speculates that the Ethics Board may rework the city’s reporting schedule to impose more frequent disclosures. Doing so would cut down on post-election reports like the one Leadership Matters is expected to file.
Even so, the city’s current disclosure policy puts Philadelphia at the forefront of campaign finance transparency in America. The Federal Election Commission, by comparison, still allows non-profit organizations to keep their donors’ names private.