Another election, another bust for Philadelphia District Attorney Larry Krasner and the Real Justice PAC founded by Shaun King in 2018.
King doesn’t run Real Justice, but he co-founded it, frequently touts it and is listed on its “the team” page, so when it runs into trouble on its only winning campaign of the year, it’s another black eye for the activist who has frequently been accused of playing things fast and loose.
After agreeing to a settlement with the Board of Ethics of the City of Philadelphia in 2019 for their violations of campaign finance laws during the 2017 campaign, the DA and the PAC are being fined again, for the same things: Admitting to violations including misstatements and missions in campaign finance reports.
The violations include some of the same characters who were caught last time–including Brandon Evans, who served as both the PAC’s political director and Krasner’s campaign manager. The Ethics Board fined both the campaign and Real Justice for failing to make it transparent to the public that, in fact, the campaign manager wasn’t actually part of Krasner’s campaign staff—rather, the campaign was paying the PAC for consulting services, while the PAC employed Evans.
“There was no way for the public to know how the Krasner campaign was paying the PAC for staff, including its campaign manager Brandon Evans, and for other services,” Ethics Board Executive Director Shane Creamer told The Philadelphia Inquirer. “The disclosure errors by both the PAC and the Krasner campaign combined to cause a lack of public transparency about how the embedded staffers were being paid.”
That lack of transparency isn’t new. The Daily Beast reported in May on the entangled, questionable relationship between the PAC and Krasner’s campaign, which has now led to both parties getting hit with higher fines this time around ($30,000 for Real Justice, and $10,000 for Krasner’s campaign) as repeat offenders. But of course, that’s just money, and the election and the damage have been done.
When The Daily Beast spoke with David Mitrani, an attorney for Real Justice PAC, in May, he said that “the PAC built additional controls and accounting structures to ensure that internal staff time working on the Krasner campaign was captured and paid for by the Krasner campaign—to avoid an impermissibly large in-kind contribution. These stronger systems were implemented to make sure that expenses and time wouldn’t fall through the cracks, and that the campaign was paying for the use of Real Justice PAC staff.” The campaign offered a similar word salad.
Guess that didn’t work, huh?
“The arrangement between Real Justice PAC and the Krasner campaign was and is a fee-for-service relationship, as regularly occurs in campaign work between campaigns and consultants,” then-Krasner campaign spokesperson Jessica Brand told The Daily Beast at the time.
But I don’t see other campaigns getting hit for the same stuff with the same PAC in two straight cycles or having a campaign manager who doesn’t, you know, work for the campaign.
“To put these errors in context, the campaign received over 25,000 contributions during the campaign totaling over $1.3 million,” Evans told The Inquirer. “It provided extensive and timely finance reports, including one that spanned 157 pages. The fines constitute approximately 0.5% of the total raised, spent, and reported by the campaign. Obviously, we regret any errors that were made.”
But the “errors” made weren’t just about finance contributions and statistics, but about the failure to address the lack of transparency surrounding the PAC relationship with Krasner’s campaign. For a second time, each party tried to hide how much it scratched the other’s back. This doesn’t look good for Krasner, who has been facing increased backlash on his inflated national-headline-chasing ego.
With the exception of Krasner, the other four Real Justice PAC-backed D.A. candidates who ran this year all lost. And given that it’s Krasner who cruised through his general election, even as the city has seen a soaring murder rate on his watch, there was no need to play around this way except muscle memory.