The ethics board made a bit of a splash today, agreeing to a settlement with Chaka Fattah over money raised by his exploratory committee and spent by his mayoral committee.
Fattah has agreed to return $
42,000 $33,251 $36,767.34 to donors from the exploratory committee. Money was used for Fattah's Web site, computers and Fattah's announcement when he entered the race. (Both sides miscalculated the money in the settlement at first; the $36,767 figure is based on the agreement obtained from the board at 6 p.m. tonight. Should be final.)
The money in the exploratory committee will be returned to donors, not put into Fattah's mayoral warchest as he had hoped to do earlier.
Good government activists Zack Stalberg and Brett Mandel attended the ethics board's hearing and applauded the decision, which they consider an embarrasment to Fattah's campaign.
"If the media pays attention to this stuff then the voters see who is playing by the rules and who isn't," said Stalberg, head of the nonpartisan Committee of Seventy. "I think, clearly, Fattah was not."
Fattah's attorney, Greg Harvey, maintains that Fattah believes that he didn't officially become a candidate until his actual announcement. Thus, Harvey says, it was OK that the Fattah campaign used items from the exploratory committee prior to the announcement. Fattah's mayoral campaign began purchasing the items on Jan. 9, Harvey said.
The board's executive director, J. Shane Creamer, said that Fattah's campaign was very open with providing the requested information.
"I do think it's important to demonstrate that the board is actively engaged in its oversight function of the law," said Creamer.
The board decided against fining Fattah, both because he was cooperative and because it doesn't yet have the proper powers in place to adjudicate decisions. The board is working on drafting its adjudication powers now.
Also at the hearing, it was announced that the state Supreme Court has agreed to hear Fattah's appeal of the city's new campaign finance rules, but the court won't put the appeal on the fast track. Harvey conceded that it was "unlikely" that a decision would be reached prior to the May 15 primary.