THERE AREN’T A lot of laughs in the mayor’s race, but I always get a chuckle when millionaire candidate Tom Knox says he’s running to take the “for sale” sign off city hall.
I mean, the guy’s dumping millions into 30-second TV spots, mucking up our first-ever chance to see what a mayor’s race with campaign contribution limits would look like, and he says he wants to prevent the sale of the mayor’s office.
At a community forum last Monday, Knox put his proposition a little more candidly. “I’m trying to spend money for Philadelphia, so I can buy City Hall back for the people of Philadelphia,” he said.
It’s at least a more straightforward version of his pitch: If he buys the mayor’s office with his own money, he doesn’t owe anybody, and can govern without worrying about pleasing the pay-to-play crowd asking for access and favors.
The notion has some appeal in a city sick of municipal corruption, but is it really convincing? When Knox put $5 million into his mayoral campaign more than a year ago, little attention was paid to what may be a crucial detail: The money was not a contribution to his campaign committee, but a loan.
Which means that if he wins the race and occupies the mayor’s office, he could start holding fundraisers and use any cash he collects to repay his personal loan.
And make no mistake – a first term mayor in Philadelphia can raise a ton of money. Anybody interested in city jobs, contracts, zoning approvals or just access to the mayor’s office for the next eight years might well want to buy a little good will with a contribution.
While City Council has imposed limits on political contributions by those seeking city business, they don’t apply to companies going for competitively bid contracts, many of which write big checks.
And those who are bound by the limits can give the maximum every year, so a mayor can raise plenty of cash if he wants to.
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