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March 15, 2023

Mayoral candidate Jeff Brown is being investigated by Philly's ethics board, report says

The grocery chain owner is among 12 Democrats campaigning to lead the city. He is one of the few running TV ads

2023 Election Investigations
Jeff Brown ethics investigation @JeffBrownGrocer/Facebook

The Philadelphia Board of Ethics is reportedly investigating mayoral candidate Jeff Brown's campaign finance activities. The 2023 mayoral race is Brown's first time running for political office.

Grocer-turned-mayoral candidate Jeff Brown is the subject of a Philadelphia Ethics Board investigation, according to an Inquirer report published Wednesday.

The specifics of the investigation are unclear, but a campaign finance compliance consultant told the paper that Shane Creamer, the board's executive director, approached her about a probe into "some of Jeff Brown's campaign finance activities."

The consultant, Victoria Perrone, told the Inquirer she had conversations with Brown's campaign manager, Jimmy Cauley, about joining the team last year but was concerned by what she described as an intermingling among some the Brown campaign's campaign finance committees that the law requires to be kept separate.

Acting on a tip last week, as word of the probe began to circulate in political circles, PhillyVoice contacted the Philadelphia Ethics Board. Creamer responded, saying that he could neither confirm nor deny the existence of an investigation, under the board's governing laws.

This isn't the first time Brown's campaign finances have been scrutinized. Philly Progress PAC, a political committee that served as a think tank for Brown before he announced his candidacy, took in $1.2 million between 2021 and 2022. The PAC turned heads in part because it was registered with the state, and not the city, allowing it to exceed the contribution limits for city candidates – so long as it followed rules about what those donations can cover. The majority of the PAC's expenses last year went to people now working on Brown's campaign, according to the Inquirer.

Brown entered the 2023 mayoral race as a first-time candidate for office, joining a crowded field of 12 Democrats and one Republican. His personal wealth, accrued as the owner of 10 ShopRites in the Philadelphia region, has helped him mount a highly visible campaign. He is one of three candidates to run TV ads, including a controversial spot featuring Michelle Obama.

Brown's campaign told PhillyVoice it could not comment on the investigation. The primary election is slated for Tuesday, May 16.

This story has been updated with a response from the Brown campaign.

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