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The ‘Bug’ That Upended An Election



How the discovery of an FBI bug and the political spin that followed changed the course of the last competitive race for Philly mayor.

Chris Brennan, Philadelphia Inquirer

The FBI “bug” was small but still landed like a bombshell in City Hall — exactly four weeks before the 2003 general election for mayor in Philadelphia.

Was this the end for Mayor John Street, a Democrat seeking a second term?

Was it a windfall for Republican nominee Sam Katz, whom Street narrowly defeated four years earlier?

What would turn out to be the last competitive general election for mayor in the city was suddenly, staggeringly nationalized.

Republicans hoped the listening device discovered in the mayor’s office, revealing a secret federal investigation into Street’s administration, would push Katz to victory.

Democratic Party leaders — including then-U.S. House Minority Leader Nancy Pelosi and former Vice President Al Gore — rushed to Philadelphia to stump for Street.

Some of them accused Republican President George W. Bush of allowing his Department of Justice to interfere in a local election.

That election interference message — so uncommon 20 years ago, so very common now — won the day as Street secured reelection.

Rest is here.

I posted a thread on X/Twitter on October 8 detailing the remarkable events (and the manner in which the media misled the public) here.

Analyses of these events are also available on this site here and here.  A related 2017 Associated Press article “Bob Brady runs Philadelphia Democrats amid run of corruption” is here.

Lastly,  I of course devote a lot of attention to all of this in Black Brothers, Inc.: The Violent Rise and Fall of Philadelphia’s Black Mafia (Milo, 2007).

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