Pittsburgh mayoral race heats up as Peduto challenges Lamb's finances

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City Councilman Bill Peduto is challenging city Controller Michael Lamb's campaign finances, contending in a complaint to the county board of elections that Mr. Lamb did not properly form a committee to accept 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.

Mr. Lamb and Mr. Peduto are challenging Mayor Luke Ravenstahl for the Democratic nomination for mayor.

In a petition that asks a panel of judges to sort out questions on the interpretation and enforceability of the relatively untested law, Mr. Peduto contends that Mr. Lamb improperly transferred $62,000 from his campaign committee for city controller to his mayoral bid.

The Peduto petition also argues that Mr. Lamb's year-end contribution report shows that he breached a self-funding ceiling in the law by donating a total of $52,000 to his campaign before refunding $2,000 to himself. That is potentially a more significant part of the complaint in that the law also states that if a candidate, without notice, exceeds $50,000 in personal donations to his or her own campaign, contribution limits should be lifted for other candidates in the race.

The limits on outside contributions are $2,000 for each election for an individual, and $4,000 for political action committees. For the full election cycle -- the primary and general combined -- that means a $4,000 limit for individuals and $8,000 for political committees.

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.

The Lamb campaign did not respond to a request to address the specifics of the Peduto complaint.

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 refer it to a panel of Common Pleas Court judges. From the time of the law's 2009 enactment, however, there have been questions about the law's enforceability.

Sonya Toler, a spokeswoman for the Peduto campaign, said their lawyers were confident that the board of elections could accept the filing. If not, she said, the campaign would take its complaint directly to Common Pleas Court.

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James O'Toole: jotoole@post-gazette.com. Tim McNulty: tmcnulty@post-gazette.com.


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