September 12, 2023
Grocer-turned-politician Jeff Brown's mayoral bid ended in May, when Cherelle Parker beat out a crowded field of challengers for the Democratic nomination. On Tuesday, an ethics lawsuit sparked by his first political campaign ended better for Brown with a judge ruling in his favor.
In the suit, the Philadelphia Board of Ethics had accused a super PAC affiliated with Brown of illegally coordinating with the candidate and thereby exceeding campaign finance limits. For a Better Philadelphia and its nonprofit of the same name were barred from any additional spending in support of Brown under an emergency injunction granted in April, ahead of formal court proceedings.
After months of court motions, Common Pleas Judge Joshua Roberts dismissed the lawsuit. As reported by the Inquirer, Roberts ruled Brown had not illegally coordinated with the super PAC in the months prior to November 2022 because he was not a candidate yet.
Expenditures are considered coordinated if a political campaign solicits or directs funds to the person or group making the expenditure within a year before the election. That makes them subject to campaign finance limits for a political committee, which normally cap at $12,600. But when candidate Allan Domb triggered the "millionaire's amendment" by spending $250,000 of his own money on his campaign, the limit was doubled to $25,200. The ethics had board accused For a Better Philadelphia of spending "millions" on Brown's campaign.
The ethics board characterized the expenditures as "on a scale larger than any previously uncovered by the Board of Ethics." Brown's camp denied any wrongdoing from the start, calling the suit "a disagreement on campaign finance between the lawyers."