In early summer 2003, at least 27 city judicial candidates, among others up for election that November, wrote checks to a political action committee called the Appreciation Fund.They gave $200, $500, $1,000 at most. Nearly half the money raised paid for a July banquet honoring U.S. Rep. Bob Brady [pictured, left, with Johnny Doc] , then celebrating his 18th year as chairman of Philadelphia’s Democratic Party, as well as the retiring 60th Ward leader, Isadore Shrager.
The rest of the money sat unspent – until two months ago.
That’s when the Appreciation Fund was almost depleted, with more than half the $27,022 remaining redirected to Brady’s mayoral account, and nearly a third of it to the campaign committee of City Councilwoman Carol Campbell, secretary of the Democratic Party.
In an election season in which money — and access to it — has become a dominant theme in the mayor’s race, the Appreciation Fund highlights the difficulties of tracking campaign contributions despite Philadelphia’s strict regulation of political money.
The fund also raises questions about the benefits that Brady, a five-term congressman, is reaping from his role as chairman of the Democratic Party, given the many PACs affiliated with him, the party and its officials.
Saying the city’s campaign-finance law was to reduce the influence of money in politics, Zachary Stalberg, president of the election watchdog group Committee of Seventy, said: “This use of the so-called Appreciation Fund strikes me as a way to get around the law in terms of limiting the dollars raised.”
“Is it an advantage that Brady has because he is the party chairman? Absolutely,” he said. “Is it one of the reasons he wanted to remain party chairman? I believe so — to push every button available.”
INQUIRER: Dem Machine Shakes Its Money Maker