Proposal To Provide Public Financing For Philly Campaigns In Limbo

PHILADELPHIA (CBS) — A bill that would provide public funding for local campaigns was debated in a Philadelphia city council committee last week, but — despite having some fans — the idea was put on indefinite hold. It was not the cost alone that doomed the bill.

Finance Director Rob Dubow led off testimony, saying the bill would put a strain on the city’s already limited discretionary spending.

“The proposal before the committee today would require approximately $6.2 million,” Dubow said.

A bill proponent, Michael Cooke of the Board of Ethics, argued there are ways to lower the cost but some spending is worth the benefits.

“The proposed matching funds program would make Philadelphia elections cleaner and fairer,” Cooke argued. “It would also empower Philadelphians by amplifying the impact of small dollar contributions and will encourage candidates to focus their time and fundraising on regular constituents, thereby diversifying the donor base.”

Witnesses from Washington and New York echoed those arguments but main sponsor Derek Green agreed to hold the bill and not ask for a committee vote.

One reason the proposal might have lost popularity is an internal analysis of who on council would benefit most. Co-sponsor Helen Gym wins by a landslide. She’d get more than $200,000 under the proposal, compared to a modest $5,000 for Councilwoman Jannie Blackwell, at the other end of the list.

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