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Peduto renews challenge of financing in Pittsburgh mayoral race

| Thursday, March 21, 2013, 12:03 p.m.

Pittsburgh Councilman Bill Peduto went to court on Thursday to stop two rival Democrats from using money they raised in other campaigns for their 2013 mayoral runs.

Peduto, 48, of Point Breeze filed for an injunction in Allegheny County Common Pleas Court, citing “blatant violations” of the city's campaign finance ordinance by Controller Michael Lamb and former state Auditor General Jack Wagner.

Peduto claims Lamb, 50, of Mt. Washington illegally shifted more than $200,000 from his controller campaign account to his mayoral race account. He alleges Wagner, 64, of Beechview plans to use hundreds of thousands raised during a failed gubernatorial bid.

Peduto, who wrote the ordinance in 2010, said it prohibits candidates from moving more than $4,000 from another political account to their mayoral campaign fund.

“A leader is expected to follow the law, and that is what Bill Peduto is doing,” campaign spokeswoman Sonya Toler said. “He's trying to convince the other candidates to do the same thing.”

The Lamb and Wagner campaigns called Peduto's action a political stunt.

J.J. Abbott, Wagner's campaign spokesman, said Peduto was attempting to distract voters from real issues in the campaign, including education, jobs and public safety.

“Pittsburghers know Jack Wagner and know that he has the impeccable record of service and leadership that is needed in City Hall,” Abbott said, declining to comment further.

Lamb campaign manager Anne Batchelder called Peduto's filing “the approach of a gadfly, not a leader — and certainly not a mayor.” She wrote in an email that Lamb is following the law.

“Instead of focusing on the issues and challenges facing Pittsburgh, Mr. Peduto has shown a pattern of filing nuisance lawsuits to gain political advantage,” Batchelder said.

Toler said Pittsburgh's ordinance was modeled after one in Philadelphia. She said Philadelphia Mayor Michael Nutter sued other candidates in 2006 for moving money from one account to a mayoral account and that the state Supreme Court upheld the ordinance.

Peduto in February filed and dropped a similar complaint against Lamb with the county Elections Division because he received endorsements from County Executive Rich Fitzgerald and County Councilman John DeFazio. He said he wanted to avoid an appearance of impropriety, noting that Fitzgerald and DeFazio serve on the Board of Elections.

When Peduto filed the complaint, elections Director Mark Wolosik told the Tribune-Review that his office could not clarify city election law because it cannot investigate an alleged city code violation.

Wagner told the Trib last month he had $300,000 banked from a failed gubernatorial run in 2010, “so if I run, I start out in good position financially.”

Peduto, Lamb and Wagner are among six Democrats on the ballot in the May 21 primary. Also running are state Rep. Jake Wheatley, 40, of the Hill District; City Council President Darlene Harris, 60, of Spring Hill; and community activist Abdula Jamal Richardson, 36, of Sheraden.

Bob Bauder is a Trib Total Media staff writer. Reach him at 412-765-2312 or bbauder@tribweb.com.

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