For both the Committee of Seventy's Zack Stalberg and Philadelphia Forward's Brett Mandel, Chaka Fattah's punishment from yesterday's Ethics Board decision would come mostly from the embarrassment factor from stories in the media.
With the Virginia Tech massacre dominating the headlines, stories on Fattah being forced to pay back more than $36,000 to his exploratory committee for expenses racked up for his mayoral campaign were pushed inside.
The story got unanimous Page 4 treatment in the Big Three: Metro ("Ethics board steps in"), Daily News ("Fattah campaign 'misbehaved'") and Inky ("Fattah will refund contributions," on B4, with a tease on the front of the local section).
Stalberg and Mandel were probably hoping for a lot more ... as was at least one other campaign.
A campaign (it will remain nameless, because the information was provided "on background") sent out its own analysis of Fattah's quarterly congressional filing and more than $100,000 in charges it believes Fattah's exploratory committee wrongly spent for mayoral campaign expenses.
The campaign questioned Fattah's purchase of $4,000 in "tokens" from the Fresh Grocer in Drexel Hill between January and March by the congressional campaign:
Never before has he purchased transit tokens with his mayoral account – let alone that many. Clearly these tokens are being used by the paid canvassers in his mayoral campaign to travel between neighborhoods.
Well, not really. According to the Fattah campaign, they were actually tokens as in gift certificates for Fattah's "Guns for Groceries" program. Fresh Grocer confirm that the store sells tokens, rather than gift cards. They're available in denominations of $1, $5, $10, $20, $50 and $100, if you're interested.
"There go our opponents — trying to smear us for getting 600 guns off the street!" Fattah adviser Rebecca Kirszner wrote in an e-mail. "Very nice."
Some would question the benefit Fattah gets from congressional actions while he's also running for mayor, but the fact is that he is still a sitting congressman and should be serving his constituents. All of the press releases about the Guns for Groceries program have come from Fattah's West Philly congressional office via former Daily News reporter Ron Goldwyn, not the mayoral campaign. (He just sent one this afternooon, actually, for an event happening Saturday.)
(You could question why he bought the tokens in Drexel Hill and not in Philadelphia.)
As to the charges that Fattah should have been held accountable for $100,000 in exploratory committee spending, ethics board interim executive director Shane Creamer says that he "demanded and received an explanation for each expenditure immediately before and immediately after" Fattah's Nov. 18 declaration that he was running.
"Some of the items are covered in our agreement, and others, in my judgment were legitimate exploratory committee expenses," Creamer said.
The attacking campaign points out nearly $21,500 in charges for staff paid for by the exploratory committee after Fattah entered the race. Fattah's campaign points out that the law doesn't take into account when the payments are made, but when they're incurred.
"We worked with the ethics board on a thorough review of the matter and came to an agreement," said campaign spokesman Solomon Jones. "The ethics board said that the Fattah campaign provided extraordinary detail and did everything that was asked."
Creamer was running over to the board's training session at CCP this morning and unable to review the charges line by line. More later if he deems anything questionable.