A neutral observer, state Rep. Dwight Evans, whose district is in northwest Philadelphia, said there might be a racial subtext to the dispute. Ward leaders, he said, see Obama airing millions of dollars worth of television ads in the city -- money that benefits largely white station owners, feeding resentment. People wonder why Obama isn't sharing the largesse with the largely African American field workers trying to get him elected, Evans said.It's not clear that the Clinton campaign will dole out the cash either — I bet they won't — but in 2004, John Kerry's campaign "paid out hundreds of thousands of dollars in street money to Philadelphia's Democratic apparatus." And there's a story about Walter Mondale talking to a Philadelphia crowd in 1980 and getting the first question: "Where's the money?"
"They view it that the white people are getting all the money for TV," said Evans, an African American and former ward leader. "And they're the ones who are the foot soldiers on the street. They're predominantly African Americans, and they're not the ones who are getting that TV money."
Hardscrabble neighborhoods across the city have come to depend on street money as a welcome payday for knocking on doors, handing out leaflets and speaking to voters as they arrive at polling places.
Peter Wilson, a ward leader from West Philadelphia, said: "Most of the ward leaders, we live in a very poor area, and people look forward to election days. . . . People are astute. They know the Obama campaign has raised millions of dollars."
According to the article, it's not illegal. If the tradition is to pay grassroots-level people for their work — compensate them for their expenses? — can you come in and stiff them? But if it looks corrupt to outsiders — and it does — Obama must be worrying that Clinton will accuse him of paying the people in Philadelphia to pad the vote for him while she gets honest votes from real supporters in the rest of the state. (This is why I bet the Clintons won't pay.) If this happens, it will be racial politics, and the Clintons have to find a subtle way to say it without saying it.