PHILADELPHIA (WPVI) -- With five weeks until the primary, the controversy is heating up in Philadelphia's mayoral race. The Philadelphia Board of Ethics is accusing a mayoral candidate of violating the city's campaign finance law.
Mayoral candidates gathered on Monday night at the Latino Mayoral Forum in North Philadelphia. They addressed community issues but also new allegations that candidate Jeff Brown illegally coordinated with a super PAC.
"There are rules for a reason, and I don't think the Board of Ethics would press charges if they didn't have the evidence that there was some wrongdoing," said Democratic candidate Rebecca Rhynhart.
The Philadelphia Board of Ethics is accusing a super PAC called "For a Better Philadelphia" and a nonprofit of the same name of coordinating with Brown to circumvent the city's annual contribution limits.
"The citizens of the City of Philadelphia need to know who is providing dollars to fund your campaign and having a C-4 with dark money and then going to a super PAC does not allow the citizens of Philadelphia to understand who's funding and who you are beholden to," said Democratic candidate Derek Green.
"Jeff Brown has been soliciting from individuals like Jeffrey Yass and the Susquehanna Group that has been responsible for right-wing attacks on democracy and especially on public education," said Democratic candidate Helen Gym.
Brown is one of the top fundraisers in this crowded mayoral ticket.
The Ethics Board alleges that Brown helped fundraise millions of dollars on behalf of For a Better Philadelphia, who have in turn made expenditures in support of Brown's candidacy, within a year before the May 16 primary.
Brown responded by saying he believes the other leading candidates raised money in similar ways.
"They're somewhat hypocritical because they've done the same things I've done," Brown said. "I don't believe we did anything wrong, and I look forward to the court exonerating, and maybe they have to look at some of the other candidates."
The Ethics Board is asking the courts to issue an emergency order prohibiting the groups from spending money to influence the race by way of ads or other efforts, and for them to pay civil monetary penalties.
"I would hope that the Ethics Board has carefully reviewed their evidence. Just putting that kind of statement out can negatively impact a campaign," said Republican candidate David Oh.
A hearing is scheduled for April 24.
For a Better Philadelphia released the following statement:
We started working with the Board more than two weeks ago to address its concerns. During that time, the PAC agreed to stop spending funds. Yesterdays court action accomplished nothing more than what the PAC previously agreed to do. We note that the Boards filing runs afoul of its own policies designed to ensure the Constitutional rights of privacy, and that they gave more notice to the Inquirer of its lawsuit than it did to the lawyers who it knew were representing For A Better Philadelphia. The Boards efforts to put its thumb on the scales of such a consequential elections should concern every resident of the City who demands better than the status quo.