With one week to go before the May 21 mayoral primary, the money trail is becoming increasingly convoluted — as reflected by financial activity involving the campaigns of the race's two frontrunners.
For starters, a contractor whose work on Mayor Luke Ravenstahl's home has become the subject of stories in the Post-Gazette appears to be a financial supporter of Jack Wagner.
According to a P-G story last week, William J. Rogers runs a firm, R&B Contracting and Excavation, that has done more than $2 million in work for the city since 2010 ... while operating another firm, Allstate Development, that has carried out renovation work at Ravenstahl's Fineview home. The Post-Gazette raised questions about the propriety of such an arrangement, though Ravenstahl's attorney has denied that there was anything improper about it.
Rogers, meanwhile, appears to be backing Wagner — whose close ties to other Ravenstahl loyalists have already raised eyebrows.
Wagner campaign-finance records show three contributions totaling $5,000 between April 17 and April 22 made by a William J. Rogers, all with the same home address. None of those contributions identify Rogers by his ties to either Allstate or R&B. But two $500 contributions identify Rogers' employer as Ace Energy Services, a firm that "specializ[es] in primary and secondary oilfield containment throughout the Marcellus and Utica [natural-gas drilling] regions," and that uses the same West Mifflin business address as one provided on the website of R&B Contracting and Excavation. Another $4,000 contribution used the same home address, but listed Rogers' business address as a Downtown law firm. This appears to be a clerical error on the Wagner campaign's part; the firm employs a lawyer with a similar name, but that lawyer told City Paper he has not made any contributions to Wagner.
Rogers has not returned a phone call left with a receptionist at R&B, who said that was the best number to reach him.
Finance records suggest that the Wagner campaign received the contributions before the Post-Gazette published its story. JJ Abbot, a Wagner spokesman, said Wagner has received contributions from a variety of sources, and while Abbott said he was unsure about the circumstances behind Rogers' contributions, "There's no relationship" between Rogers and Wagner.
Wagner's chief rival, City Councilor Bill Peduto, expressed little surprise about the contributions. "You'll find that there are numerous big money people with ties to the mayor who are supporting the Wagner campaign," he says. Rogers "is just one of them."
Meanwhile, some intriguing contribution patterns are arising on Peduto's side of the ledger as well.