City Councilman Bill Peduto is challenging city Controller Michael Lamb's campaign finances, contending, in a wide-ranging complaint to the county board of elections, that Mr. Lamb did not properly form a committee to receive contributions for his run for mayor, and that Mr. Lamb exceeded a limit on gifts to his own campaign in a way that could void contribution limits for all of the candidates in the race.
In a petition that asks a panel of judges to sort out crucial questions on the interpretation and enforceability of the untested law, Mr. Peduto contends that Mr. Lamb improperly transferred money from his campaign committee for city controller to his mayoral bid. The city contribution law also states that if a candidate exceeds $50,000 in personal contributions to his or her own campaign, contribution limits should be lifted for other candidates in the race -- meaning that Mr. Peduto and Mayor Luke Ravenstahl could be freed of the contribution limits.
The Peduto petition argues that Mr. Lamb's year-end contribution report shows that he breached that barrier by donating a total of $52,000 to his campaign before refunding $2,000 to himself.
Anne Batchelder, Mr. Lamb's campaign manager, denounced the Peduto filing.
"This is a baseless political stunt. We are confident that we followed the letter and the spirit of the law," she said in a statement.
Following the language of the city law, Mr. Peduto directed his complaint to the county board of elections, which is supposed to receive the filing and turn the matter over to a panel of Common Pleas Court judges. From the time the law was enacted, however, there have been questions about its enforceability.
"We have no legal authority to investigate alleged violations of the city of Pittsburgh ordinance," Mark Wolosik, the director of the Allegheny County elections division, told the Post-Gazette when its provisions were invoked in a 2011 city council race.
Commenting on the dispute between Mr. Ravenstahl's rivals, his campaign spokesman, Matt Harringer, said, "The mayor has followed the letter and spirit of the law. We're confident that whatever decision is reached our campaign will continue to lead in this race."
Politics Editor James O'Toole: firstname.lastname@example.org or 412-263-1562.