Spat over GOP campaign donation turns into ethical quandary
Two advocacy groups called on Melissa Bailey to return a $2,900 campaign contribution to a donor who allegedly made homophobic and Islamophobic comments online, and the Republican mayoral candidate has fired back by calling out an alleged ethics violation that happened in the process.
On Monday, AL DÍA published a campaign finance analysis on the Republican side of the mayor’s race. The report looked at the struggles of raising money for an underdog bid, and examined a few of the donors who have backed Melissa Murray Bailey for the city’s executive office. One of our report's findings caught the attention of the Democratic-leaning groups:
“[Melissa Murray Bailey’s] biggest donor is Andrew Terhune, a senior business analyst for the Toll Brothers. Bailey didn’t know Terhune personally at the time he made the maximum $2,900 contribution to her campaign after hearing her speak at an Republican party event in April. Despite Terhune’s stake in the luxury development world — and a few posts on his public Facebook page critical of subjects like Islam and the SCOTUS same-sex marriage ruling — Bailey says that donations to her campaign come without political baggage attached.”
On Wednesday, Cameron Kline issued this statement on behalf Liberty City LGBT Democratic Club:
“Melissa Murray Bailey's decision to accept a campaign donation, in the maximum amount allowable by law, from a donor who repeatedly posted homophobic statements online calls into question her core values. If she is sincere in her support of gay marriage, she should return the donation to the man who claimed that the Supreme Court decision paved the way for legalized polygamy and incest.”
The Arab American Institute followed up the same day with their own statement calling Bailey to return the donation, as well as to sign the “Pledge to Combat Bigotry” that Bailey’s Democratic opponent Jim Kenney signed last month.
“Mr. Terhune recently publicly posted a video promoting racist opinions and violence against Arab Americans and American Muslims,” the AAI statement reads. “This blatant act of fear-mongering is dangerous and it has no place in the political discourse of Pennsylvania or anywhere in the U.S. Mr. Terhune is well known for his racist and anti-Muslim attitudes and Mrs. Murray Bailey should not be associated with an individual who espouses such prejudice.”
The Philadelphia Republican Party issued a response Friday morning that called the previous statements “a ridiculous partisan attack.” Joe DeFelice, the Philly GOP executive director, said that the allegations imply that a political candidate is responsible for the social media posts made by everyone single one of their donors, “something we are sure that Jim Kenney, who has made his own personal explosive comments on social media, wouldn't want to have to answer to.”
But then the Philly GOP turned the tables with its own allegation. The target is Cameron Kline, who issued the Liberty LGBT statement. Kline works as the communications director for the office of District Attorney Seth Williams, which DeFelice said violates the city’s ethics code that prohibits appointed city workers from partisan political activity.
“This is just another example of the blatant disregard for the rules of our city and disrespect of the trust voters place in the hands of their fellow citizens to carry out the duties of non-partisan offices like the District Attorney,” DeFelice said.
The District Attorney’s office is currently investigating the claims. AL DÍA has also made inquiries with the city's board of ethics, and we'll update with information as it becomes available.
As for the campaign donor, Terhune spoke with WHYY's Mayor Ninety Nine about his Facebook posts, one of which was a reposted video with no caption, and said they "did not express an opinion."
"I don't think it's offensive to anyone. I was trying to spark a debate. In politics, people try to make mountains out of mole hills. ... If they're telling you I'm homophobic, ask them to talk to my two gay nephews, or one of my groomsmen who is gay, and see what they tell you. If they want to start playing games and throwing ad hominem attacks, that's kind of low," Terhune told Ninety Nine.