News of ‘Ya Fav Trashman’ mismanaging campaign funds and stiffing staffers is its own story, but the state’s campaign finance laws exclude working people seeking office
Terrill Haigler, better known as ‘Ya Fav Trashman’ to his over 6,000 Twitter followers, much to the sadness of his many supporters, ended his campaign for City Council
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Terrill Haigler, better known as ‘Ya Fav Trashman’ to his over 6,000 Twitter followers, much to the sadness of his many supporters, ended his campaign for City Council earlier this week on March 7, citing not having enough signatures to get on the ballot.
That was until a Philadelphia Inquirer piece published early Friday, March 10, revealed bigger issues going on behind the scenes much larger than a lack of signatures.
The article revealed he hadn’t paid his staffers, used campaign funding for personal expenses in what could be a possible violation of state law, and now potentially faces penalties from the Philly Board of Ethics for failing to account for the money.
According to the expense records obtained by the Inquirer, two former full-time campaign staffers are owed a total $14,000 for their work from early January until they left in February, he acknowledged in an interview with the Inquirer.
One of the staffers told the Inquirer that they asked Haigler for weeks for their money and was refused.
Haigler cited personal differences with his staffers regarding the non-payments, adding that it was not his intention to not pay them. He pointed out his fundraising shortcomings and “vowed” to pay them back with interest by the end of this month.
While records revealed that during that time, Haigler was using funds to support his basic necessities for living, such as heating, Uber, and Saladworks. $26,700 to be exact, from September to February, with $17,209 going to Haigler’s personal bank account by way of roughly 200 Cash App payments.
According to city and state campaign finance laws, transferring campaign funds to a private bank account is not allowed. Candidates are only allowed to spend funds that will help influence the outcome of the election.
Haigler admitted that he may have violated the campaign finance laws unknowingly. By law, campaigns have to disclose all funds raised and spent as well as name a treasurer to manage campaign spending.
However, it was revealed that Haigler’s treasurer had left his campaign.
The once-viral former city sanitation worker has been quiet since the article’s release, but the situation has sparked conversations on social media regarding a political system that makes it hard for any person of color, someone who’s poverty-stricken, or the working class to be political challengers.
Political groups for years have sought to change the rules regarding candidates paying themselves salaries so that more working-class people and candidates from nontraditional political backgrounds would be more inclined to run for office.
This is something that current Philadelphia City Controller candidate, Alexandra Hunt, said in a pair of tweets this morning regarding Haigler’s issues.
“Working people should be able to make a salary while running for office. Being a candidate is a full-time job (usually more than full-time if you’re like me — you lose sleep on the campaign trail, forget to eat, and are working from dawn till dusk).” she tweeted.
“PA campaign finance law preventing candidates from taking salaries keeps good people out of office and hinders progress towards “good” government. Politics shouldn’t just be a playground for the rich, working people need representation too,” she added.
While another Twitter user @ericopinion, tweeted similar sentiments.
“Take the person out of this story and it’s exactly why poor and working class people don’t run for office,” he tweeted.
While it’s never an excuse to mishandle funds or not pay staffers the way Haigler did, there’s something to be said about the expensive and incredibly complex nature of the everyday person running for public office.
The road to victory is much harder for candidates who cannot afford to dedicate all of their time to strictly campaigning with many of them having to hold their day jobs in order to make ends meet while also having to hit the campaign trail.
It’s hard to run for office if you’re not rich. And if the system in place only makes it an easier path for the wealthy, as in most things, the poor and the working class are left behind.
If candidates mainly need to be wealthy to run, it cannot be a great thing for Democracy — the nation’s literal selling point.
If you’re broke, or young with thousands of dollars of student loans, you might concede to the fact that the campaign with the most money usually wins. As being rich also means you may know other rich people who can donate big to your campaign.
There’s various things a non-wealthy candidate can do such as hiring family members, getting volunteers, and paying yourself a wage, but ultimately, it comes down to the fact that that alone is already a headache and/or thought that the wealthy candidate does not have to think about.
They are not worried about how to pay for their monthly bills, their child’s daycare, food for themselves and their family, while also having to pay staffers.
Running a campaign is already tough enough without having to worry about the fiscal aspects of it.
Many of the lawmakers in Congress are, financially, in a much better position than the constituents they supposedly represent. As of 2020, more than half of the members of Congress were millionaires with original documents for each member's disclosure being publicly available on a database website, maintained by OpenSecrets.
This very unbalanced representation is not by accident.
Many communities of color have always said they hate the word minority because there’s nothing minority about them, but systemic roadblocks such as this, make us a minority.
And if changes do not come, stories like Haigler’s will only become more frequent and maybe then the FEC or the powers that be, will decide to change the rules that have not been touched since 2002.
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