WFMZ in Allentown reports that Attorney General Kathleen Kane is investigating alleged campaign finance violations from 2011 involving Philadelphia’s powerful IBEW 98 union, two Philadelphia politicians, and Vaughn D. Spencer, now the mayor of Reading.
Kane’s office is picking up on a report filed last November by the Berks County Board of Elections. At issue are two $10,000 donations made by Friends of Vaughn D. Spencer in the days just before the November election to the campaigns of then-Councilman Bill Green and Bill Rubin, who was trying to unseat Councilman Brian O’Neill. According to campaign finance reports filed by all three candidates, the donations to Green and Rubin were made the same day Friends of Vaughn Spencer received a $30,000 donation from IBEW. The Berks County Board of Elections wondered why, noting that IBEW 98 had not previously contributed to the Spencer campaign, which itself had not previously contributed to the campaigns of Green or Rubin.
As per WFMZ:
The report alleges the $30,000 was given to Spencer to enable the union to funnel additional contributions to Rubin and Green, in violation of the Philadelphia Ethics Act. Spencer's then-campaign manager, Michael Fleck of Allentown-based Fleck Consulting, released a statement in November, saying, "We follow all campaign finance laws, we believe. And, we ran an effective campaign for the mayor."
The maximum total donation under the city's campaign finance limits at the time was $10,600, and IBEW 98 had already donated the maximum to Rubin and $10,000 to Green.
According to the Inquirer:
Spencer's lawyer, Geoffrey R. Johnson, previously accused the election board of overstepping its authority and acting as "prosecutor, judge, and executioner." Johnson also said the board's report unfairly omitted testimony about why the checks were written — out of "a belief that by making these contributions, Spencer would increase his profile and gain greater access to campaign financing statewide and particularly from Philadelphia in future elections."
John J. Dougherty, Local 98 business manager, said Wednesday night that he respected Kane, but he referred to his comments in November, when the Berks County election board released its report. At the time, he said the donations were legal, and he referred to two of the election board commissioners as tea party members "chasing an African American mayor."
Kane spokeswoman Carolyn Myers confirmed to WFMZ and the Inquirer that the investigation was on, but did not elaborate for either outlet.