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Contribution limits gone

Published by James O'Toole on .

Judge Joseph James voided the contribution limits in the Pittsburgh mayor's race Tuesday, finding that an excess contribution by a candidate no longer in the race had triggered their suspension.

The ruling came in a hearing over city Councilman Bill Peduto's request for an injunction barring former Auditor General Jack Wagner from using some $300,000 collected during previous campaigns.  Mr. Peduto argued that the use of that money would violate the limits of $4,000 for individuals and $8,000 for political committees.

At first, the case seemed to be going in Mr. Peduto's favor, when the judge said that under his reading of the law, the use of the funds from previous campaign would be "in effect, a contribution.'' The law bars contributions of more than $4,000 for individuals and $8,000 for political committees in city election. "It's hard to overlook $300,000 in determining the outcome of an election,'' the judge said, as he considered Mr. Peduto's request for an injunction against the use of the Wagner war chest.

But the case took a different turn as Mr. Wagner's lawyers pointed to to earlier filing by the councilman, in which he had complained that city Controller Michael Lamb, who withdrew from the race earlier this week, had voided the contribution limits when he  gave his campaign a total of $53,000.   The law states that is a self-funding candidate gives more than $50,000 to his or her campaign "at any time,'' that negates the contribution limits for all candidates in the race. Mr. Lamb had refunded $3,000 to himself, but Judge James found that the refund did not repair the breach created by the excess contribution.

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