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Philly’s get-out-the-vote charges

Marketplace Staff Apr 16, 2008


Renita Jablonski: Sens. Hillary Clinton and Barack Obama debate tonight in Philadelphia. There’s a local custom both campaigns are trying to avoid. It’s called “street money,” paying party operatives for their get-out-the-vote efforts. Not this year. Joel Rose reports.

Joel Rose: I’m standing outside the site of the Jefferson Jackson Dinner in Philadelphia. This is a big fundraiser for the Democratic City Committee. Basically, everybody who’s involved in the party is here. Tickets are 150 bucks a pop. That’s a lot of money. Some of it will end up on the street next Tuesday.

Lou Agre: Get people out there, get people motivated. Put up signs. Put kids on the street. (greets another person: Hey, how ya doing.) I’m sorry. Get the excitement going in the ward, it helps if, you know, you have some money.

Ward leader Lou Agre says he uses street money to pay the party workers who staff polling places on Election Day and to cover little things like meals and transportation. Traditionally, the local party organization hands out some of its own cash, and the candidates pitch in too with money from their own campaigns. But this year both presidential contenders say they won’t make donations to the local political machine.

Barack Obama: We want change! We want to turn the page! And write a new chapter in American history. That’s what we’re going to do, right here in Philadelphia.

Barack Obama says his campaign won’t give out street money. Neither will Hillary Clinton’s camp. Ward leader Greg Paulmier predicts some party workers won’t be happy about that.

Greg Paulmier: Much of that money is used specifically for educating people about where and when and who to vote for. It leaves us empty-handed. And I think the turnout won’t be as high as a result of that.

Paulmier says that could be bad for Obama, who’ll need all the votes he can get in Philadelphia to compete with Clinton’s support elsewhere in the state. But some party veterans say street money doesn’t matter so much in a national election. Bill Greenlee is a ward leader and city councilman.

Bill Greenlee: I’m not really sure how much — and maybe some of my fellow ward leaders won’t want me to say this, but I think it’s the truth — how much we really influence the presidential election.

Greenlee says most voters have already made up their minds. Turnout will be high no matter how much money is on the street come Election Day.

In Philadelphia, I’m Joel Rose for Marketplace.

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