According to campaign finance reports filed at the end of last month, the Friends of Ori Feibush had raised over $100,000 in its first month of fundraising for a campaign to unseat 2nd District Councilman Kenyatta Johnson. Controversial Point Breeze developer Ori Feibush volunteered that his campaign had raised significantly more since then and had set an unusually high fundraising goal.
"We're going to have $2 million in the bank by the end of the year," he said, during a phone interview.
To put that figure in context, Michael Nutter raised around $2.9 million for his 2007 mayoral run. For Feibush to make good on his pledge would put next year's race in the running for the most expensive council primary in city history.
The developer says he is running on a pro-business and anti-blight platform, and said it will "take a lot of money to get that message across." Without going into specifics, Feibush said he wanted to counter some of the political weight behind Johnson, who has well known connections to State Senator Anthony Williams. But Feibush generally tried to downplay the unusual expense for a district council seat.
"There's 160,000 households to reach in the 2nd District. When you look at it in those terms, that's only about 20 bucks per person," he said, referring to campaign expenses, like mailings and other advertising. Feibush said he was not trying to buy the election and that "no one in Philadelphia had won an election just because of money."
Analysis of campaign reports show that Feibush's campaign dollars are almost entirely comprised of individual donations. This includes friends and family, but also many local contractors, developers, architects, and real estate agents. Notably, realtor Barbara Capozzi, who narrowly lost to Johnson in the 2011 primary, and her brother, also a realtor, have together donated $4,400 to Feibush.
According to Johnson's financial disclosure records, he raised around $85,000 for his race against Cappozzi, and had about $183,000 socked away in January. However, he amassed much of that money over the course of a year of steady fundraising.
City campaign rules could make it more difficult for Johnson to match Feibush this year, if the developer's fundraising continues at its current pace. The incumbent, like many sitting politicians, relies on political action committees (PACs) for a portion of his campaign funding. The maximum amount of PAC donations a council candidate may use in a non-election year is capped at $75,000. There is no equivilent cap on the total number of individual donations.
Johnson raised about $20,000 in December, more than half of which came from PACs.
Only the coming year will reveal If Feibush makes good on his promise, and if Johnson will have the stamina to keep up. Feibush has made many enemies in Point Breeze, serving as the face of gentrification in the fast-changing neighborhood. An eyebrow-raising war chest could provide critics with even more ammunition.
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