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Organizations coalesce to demand accountability on Yass’s newest attempt to undermine democracy in Philadelphia

Thomas, Gilmore Richardson and Itzkowitz denounce Republican megadonor – Santamoor, West and Lozada yet to comment

PHILLY – Last Thursday, news broke that one of GOP megadonor and PA’s richest man Jeffrey Yass’s PACs, Commonwealth Children’s Choice Fund moved $400,000 into the corporate real estate Philly for Growth PAC. Despite having different slates of endorsed candidates, a coalition of grassroots voter organizations has come together to ask that all candidates condemn Yass’s newest attempt to undermine democracy by flooding money into the elections. 

“Reasonable people can sometimes disagree about which candidates are best – but we should all agree that Main Line billionaire and tax evader Jeff Yass shouldn’t get to put his thumb on the scale of the City Council election by buying himself his preferred candidates through a Super PAC expenditure,” said Steve Paul, co-executive director of One Pennsylvania. 

The independent expenditure is backing Eryn Santamoor, Job Itzkowitz, Donavan West, Isaiah Thomas and Kathy Gilmore Richardson for Council At-Large, and Quetcy Lozada for Council District 7. Just last week, the Philly for Growth PAC spent over $200,000 on TV ads – with $52k going towards the full slate and an additional $52k each going towards Itzkowitz, Santamoor and West in individual ads. 

Since the news broke last Thursday, Itzkowitz, Thomas and Gilmore Richardson all tweeted responses. Santamoor, West and Lozada have remained silent to date. 

“We’re glad to see three out of the six Yass-backed candidates, saying swiftly that they are not accountable to a Republican megadonor. Why haven’t Santamoor, West and Lozada spoken out yet? Do they support Yass’s positions on privatizing our public schools and not paying taxes? Until these candidates speak out, that is what their silence implies,” said Sergio Ceo, political director of Reclaim Philadelphia. 

Thomas’ statement references One Pennsylvania’s candidate questionnaire that asks candidates if they will reject money from Jeff Yass or any of his passthrough PAC’s. Because the money coming through the Philly for Growth PAC is an independent expenditure, candidates are not able to ‘return’ the money. Last May, Yass-affiliated PAC Excellent Schools PA gave $65,000 directly to candidates; former State Representative Isabella Fitzgerald returned the $15,000 she received, saying “Jeffrey Yass does not represent what Rep Fitzgerald stands for.”

“Jeff Yass has continuously tried to buy Philadelphia – and time and time again, we’ve let him know his money is no good here. Taking Yass’s money is saying that you don’t support our democracy, that you are okay with questioning the 2020 election results – just say NO!” said Tonya Bah, executive director of Free the Ballot. “Yass’s endorsements are a political liability; that’s why more and more candidates are speaking out to say: this billionaire does not speak for me.”

The Philly for Growth PAC endorsed slate matches the slate of Philadelphia 3.0 – a pro-development PAC run by Ali Perelman and Jon Geeting. Philadelphia 3.0 has yet to say whether they are working with Yass or the Philly for Growth PAC. 

Reclaim Philadelphia, Free the Ballot, Philly Neighborhood Networks, One Pennsylvania, PA Stands Up, PA Working Families Party, POWER, Make the Road PA, PA Spotlight, Little Sis and ACRE have all called attention to the role of Jeff Yass’s money in undermining democracy in Pennsylvania. Last fall in the lead up to the 2022 midterm elections, organizations rallied outside Yass’s house, office and Harrisburg lobbying firm to demand that he stop eroding our democracy.