Cash Behind the Campaigns: An Introduction

Philadelphia is a city of dichotomies. The poorest big city in America is also home to some of the wealthiest real estate, banking, and telecommunications companies in the world. These wealthy and powerful interests shape the city’s political and economic agenda in many ways; from backing a pro-charter agenda, to lobbying for increased tax breaks for corporations and themselves.

By donating to city council and mayoral candidates, wealthy interests influence the outcome of elections and ensure they’ll have lasting access to politicians and get to play a role in shaping the city in their image.

Members of Philly Power Research have worked tirelessly over the past few months to build a set of tools to help the broader public better understand how money in politics is shaping our neighborhoods and city at large. The Philadelphia Campaign Finance Explorer lets you easily search XYZ. The Explorer is part of an effort to expose the networks of power in our city. About our data. Read here for our series on dark money, real estate, corporate, and labor union donors.

The Explorer currently tracks campaign contributions to current city council members and Mayor Kenney from 2014- cycle 5 of 2018. As new filings are released and new candidacies are announced, we'll update the tools to incorporate the new data.

We're so excited to share these research tools and to see the data help start and shape conversations about the upcoming elections and the future we want for our city.

To start, we analyzed campaign contributions over $4000 to incumbent city councilors and Mayor Kenney from 2014- cycle 5 of October 2018. Some key findings include :

  • A few industries dominate. The real estate industry, labor unions, and law firms are the top donors. 24% of all donations over $50 to incumbent city councilors and Mayor Kenney came from the real estate industry. Labor unions and law firms contributed at least 22% and 11% of all donations over $50, respectively.

  • According to our “Where are donations?” map a majority of the City Council received the largest percentage of their campaign donations from District 5, including North Central Philadelphia, Strawberry Mansion, Lower Hunting Park, Ludlow, Yorktown, West Poplar, Fairhill, Brewerytown, Francisville, Spring Garden, Fairmount, Logan Square, and parts of Northwood, Fishtown, Northern Liberties, and Center City. [1]

  • Allan Domb is the largest single donor over the past four years--primarily because he donated over $1 million to his own campaign. After Domb, the largest single donor is Parkway Corporation CEO Joseph Zuritsky. Zuritsky has contributed at least $86,667 over the past four years. He has contributed to all 17 current City Councilors and Mayor Kenney, with the most money going to Kenyatta Johnson.

  • The soda industry has also spent heavily, hoping to beat back Mayor Kenney’s soda tax. Multimillionaire soda bottler Harold Honickman and family contributed at least $83,500 to current city councilors.

  • From 2014-2018, 9,797 contributors donated $50-250 that totaled over $1.5 million. This total contribution made by small donations is comparable to the $1.8 million donated by 98 major donors giving $5,000 or more.

We're excited to see what users do with this data and with these tools! We'd love to hear your feedback! You can send us an email at phillypowerresearch at gmail dot  com or tweet at us @ResearchPhilly. All our data is pulled from the city’s campaign finance filings and we’ve worked hard to clean up the data as best we can. That said, if you find any inaccuracies in the data we present or have ideas for ways that we can improve our methodology, please reach out to us over email!

Frequently Asked Questions

What is your data source?

Our researchers combined data from the Philadelphia Department of Records Campaign Finance Document Search Engine and Philadelphia Department of Records Campaign Finance PDF Records Search.

Did you modify any records from governmental sources?

We removed duplicates, merged alternate names into a single name, and corrected misspellings. We also categorized or “coded” each donor by sector of the economy. Please check out our methodology for additional details.

Who donated the most money to the City Council campaigns from 2014 to 2018?

The top five donors are Allan Domb, who donated over a million dollars almost exclusively to his own campaign, Duane Morris LLP (Law Firm) ($109k), Joseph Zuritsky (Real Estate) ($100k), Stradley Ronon Stevens & Young, LLP (Law Firm) ($90k), Anna Verna Committee (Political Campaign Committee) ($84k), PECO (Energy) ($84k). Donations by all principals at Joseph Zuritsky’s Parkway Corporation total at $211k, twice as much as the number two donor, Duane Morris LLP.

Where did most of the donations flow from?

40% of all contributions come from within the 5th District, with the greatest share of contributions coming from the building industry and real estate sectors. According to our where are donations map a majority of the City Council received the largest percentage of their campaign donations from District 5. [2]

Who raised the most money from donors to support their campaigns?

The biggest fundraiser by far from non-union sources was At-Large Councilmember Allan Domb at over $1.95 million. He was also his own biggest donor. In second was Councilmember Kenyatta Johnson at $1.45 million. Councilmembers Mark Squilla ($777k) and Bobby Henon ($662k) come at a close 3rd and 4th. Most council members raise money from within the city of Philadelphia, with most raising between 60-70% of their funds from within the city with the exception of three City Council Members.

Notes
[1] Allan Domb, Bill Greenlee, Blondell Reynolds Brown, Cherelle Parker, Cindy Bass, Curtis Jones Jr., Darrell Clarke, David Oh, Derek Green, Helen Gym, Jannie Blackwell, and María Quiñones-Sánchez.
[2] Allan Domb, Bill Greenlee, Blondell Reynolds Brown, Cherelle Parker, Cindy Bass, Curtis Jones Jr., Darrell Clarke, David Oh, Derek Green, Helen Gym, Jannie Blackwell, and María Quiñones-Sánchez.

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