PHILADELPHIA – The host committee for the Democratic National Convention wants to keep its donor list under wraps until after the convention even though a state open records agency has ordered its release.
A Philadelphia 2016 Host Committee lawyer told a judge Thursday the release of fundraising records could harm the organization's last-minute efforts to seek donations and negotiate vendor contracts.
Lawyer David Pittinsky said those efforts were still ongoing even though the four-day convention starts Monday.
The host committee set out to raise about $60 million from private sources, but secured a $15 million line of credit from the city as a safety net. The committee must therefore file financial updates with the city.
Independent journalist Dustin Slaughter considers those filings public, and the state's open records agency agreed with him last month. He said his interest in the event's potential cost to the city stems from the fact the pope's visit last year ultimately cost the city $8 million.
"In light of the fact that the host committee is still short on its fundraising goals, that $15 million (loan) could still come into play. The public has a right to know what's happening behind the scenes," Slaughter said after Thursday's hearing.
A host committee spokeswoman said the group has raised $56 million in cash and pledges and $16 million worth of in-kind contributions.
"The host committee's fundraising has been on track and, moreover, successful, with no city dollars spent to cover any of our obligations," said Anna Adams-Sarthou, the committee's communications director.
The committee appealed the open records ruling to city court, arguing that federal election law takes precedent and gives them until September to disclose their final numbers.
"They want the information before the convention starts. We are going to take advantage of the federal legislation that gives us the right to file it no later than 60 days (after the convention)," lawyer Pittinsky argued for the committee.
Common Pleas Judge Abbe Fletman promised to rule quickly.