New dashboard shows who’s spending big in mayor’s race

City Council
Melissa Mitman

A new data dashboard is letting Philadelphians follow the money just as this year’s mayoral race heats up.

The city’s Board of Ethics, along with Mayor Jim Kenney’s Office of Innovation and Technology, launched the program this week with the aim of making campaign finance data more accessible to the public.

Previously, copies of campaign finance reports were only posted to a city website. Those downloadable documents continue to be available.

“As we enter a significant local election season and others to come, we hope this dashboard and open data make campaign finance more transparent and accessible,” said Kistine Carolan, the city’s open data program manager, in a statement.

Officials are quick to mention that the dashboard is in its “beta” phase, and they are soliciting feedback for improvements. They are also encouraging reporters to describe amounts as “approximate” figures.

Currently, on the main page, candidates for mayor aren’t listed in a drop-down menu. Kenney administration spokesperson Kelsey Hubbell told Metro those names will be added when new finance reports are due in April.

However, users can get a sense of how the race is shaking up by clicking on the “all filers” tab and selecting the mayoral hopeful’s committee from the filer filter in the upper right part of the display. Year-end finance reports for the candidates were due Tuesday.

For example, the “Allan Domb for Philadelphia” page shows that the Center City developer and former Council member raised nearly $5.8 million in 2022. A quick look at his biggest contributors shows that he invested $5 million of his own money into his campaign.

Domb’s hefty loan raised the stakes for all of his competitors. If a candidate utilizes more than $250,000 of their own money, the donation limits (normally $3,100 for individuals, $12,600 for political action committees and private businesses) are doubled.

The contribution cap has also been raised in the City Controller race, after Jack Inacker drew from his bank account to fuel his campaign. Inacker dropped out of the race Wednesday following the local Democratic Party’s decision to back acting Controller Christy Brady.

Another candidate who has put ample funds behind his own effort is grocer Jeff Brown, who, the dashboard indicates, has spent $240,000 on his mayoral run.

Former Councilmember Helen Gym received $112,600 last year from the American Federation of Teachers and $37,600 from Teamsters Local 115, according to the dashboard.

Her former City Hall colleague, Cherelle Parker, has significant monetary support from Sprinkler Fitters Local 692 and the city’s firefighters’ union.

There is also a geographic breakdown with a map function. Of the $183,000 contributed to state Rep. Amen Brown’s mayoral campaign in 2022, more than $122,000 came from donors who live outside of Philadelphia, according to the dashboard.

In addition, the portal has a section detailing how candidates have spent funds. Jeff Brown’s expenditures totaled more than $617,000 last year, more than half of which went to Impact Politics, a marketing and ad-buying firm.

Rebecca Rhynhart, the former controller who is aiming to succeed Kenney, spent nearly $170,000 on payroll and human resources and about $115,000 on consulting firm Assemble the Agency.

Financials for Council campaigns and other local races are also included in the dashboard.

Not shown is the money carried over from previous years, meaning those interested in seeing a candidate’s ‘cash on hand’ must still turn to the finance reports. Officials hope to incorporate that information in the “next phase of updates,” Hubbell said.

The city produced a detailed, 47-minute video tutorial for people interested in learning more about how to use the tool.