The Beverage Lobby Spent $10.6 Million to Kill the Soda Tax — and Failed

FILE - In this Wednesday, June 8, 2016 file photo, opponents of a proposed sugary drink tax demonstrate outside City Hall in Philadelphia. Philadelphia is set to become the first major American city with a soda tax despite a multimillion-dollar campaign by the beverage industry to block it. The City Council is expected to give final approval Thursday, June 16, 2016, to a 1.5 cent-per-ounce tax on sugary and diet beverages. (AP Photo/Matt Rourke, File)

The Teamsters and other opponents of the soda tax rallied outside City Hall on June 8th. | Photo by Matt Rourke/AP

When Philadelphia City Council debated Mayor Jim Kenney’s proposed soda tax earlier this year, the beverage industry outspent supporters of the tax 5-to-1 on lobbying.

The American Beverage Association shelled out $10.6 million in 2016 to try to persuade lawmakers and members of the public to oppose the tax, according to lobbying reports released today and in April. The Coca-Cola Company spent $50,000. Philadelphians for a Fair Future, a pro-soda tax group founded by allies of Kenney, forked over $2.2 million. The American Heart Association spent an additional $334,000 in support of the tax.

Both sides of the fight paid for TV advertisements, phone banks, and organizing. In the end, the soda lobby’s deeper pockets weren’t enough to stop the tax, though: Council passed an historic 1.5-cents-per-ounce tax on sugary drinks and diet soda on June 16th. Read more »

Norcrossing the Delaware: How South Jersey’s Political Boss Is Making His Move on Philly

From left: Bob Brady, Jim Kenney, George Norcross, Lexie Norcross, Steve Sweeney, John Dougherty, Ed Coryell (in water). Illustration by Tim O’Brien

From left: Bob Brady, Jim Kenney, George Norcross, Lexie Norcross, Steve Sweeney, John Dougherty, Ed Coryell (in water). Illustration by Tim O’Brien

George Norcross slipped in through the back door.

It was May 19th, the day Jim Kenney won the mayoral primary in a landslide. Norcross was with Dan Hilferty, the CEO of Independence Blue Cross, when he got the news. “That evening we had a dinner meeting with a potential business partner,” says Hilferty, “and we hear on the radio that Jim has won the primary. We both say, ‘Let’s stop by and say hi to Jim.’” Read more »

At Famous 4th Street Deli Today, Huge Sammiches, Small Crowd

Senatorial candidate Katie McGinty (left), South Jersey Democratic Party power broker George Norcross (middle, right) were among those in the crowd at the Famous 4th Street Deli.

Senatorial candidate Kathleen McGinty (left) and South Jersey Democratic Party power broker George Norcross (middle, right) were among those in the crowd at the Famous 4th Street Deli.

Few political traditions in Philadelphia are quite as cherished as the Election Day gathering at Famous 4th Street Deli. (Yeah, we know you’re going to make a joke here about corruption being the most cherished tradition here. Go for it.)

There’s gossiping and backslapping and repeated attempts from political types in suits to look graceful as they shove sandwiches the size of car batteries into their mouths. But the scene today was oddly quiet. Former District Attorney Lynne Abraham made an appearance, as did City Councilman Derek Green.

George Norcross, the South Jersey Democratic power broker, was hunkered down at a table with former Daily News city editor Gar Joseph and political guru Neil Oxman, among a handful of others. There was no sign of state attorney general candidate Stephen Zappala, despite a plethora of Zappala campaign fliers outside. Read more »

Developer Unveils Massive Plan to Reshape the Camden Waterfront

Waterfront View of the Camden Waterfront - copyright Volley for Robert A.M. Stern Architects

Waterfront View of the Camden Waterfront – copyright Volley for Robert A.M. Stern Architects

You know what’s cool? A billion dollars.

The famous line from The Social Network seems apropos today, as the City of Camden has officially announced an ambitious plan to completely transform 16-acres of prime waterfront land between the Ben Franklin Bridge and the Adventure Aquarium.

Liberty Property Trust, the mega-developers behind the Navy Yard and Center City’s Comcast towers, will spearhead the $1 billion proposed development, the largest ever private sector investment in the city’s history.

If realized, the project will (largely) swap what seems like miles of surface parking lots for a live/work/play mix of glitzy office towers and low-rises, a residential component, lively restaurants and retail and even a hotel.

Read more »

The Brief: Is George Norcross Staking a Claim in Philly Politics?

George Norcross | Photo by Matt Rourke/AP

George Norcross | Photo by Matt Rourke/AP

1. George Norcross lands the first post-win meeting with Jim Kenney.

The gistThe Next Mayor has a juicy little scoop: George Norcross, the political kingmaker of South Jersey, was the first person to meet privately with Jim Kenney after he won the Democratic mayoral primary last week. Lauren Hitt, Kenney’s campaign spokesman, deemphasized their discussion. “Jim met with a lot of people [that] night and he invited them all back into the staff room because it was the only way to have a real conversation with anyone, given the crowd outside,” she said. Read more »

Philly Voice Poaches Kempski, Tevis From IGM

Jimmy Kempski, Philly.com’s popular Eagles blogger, is joining the staff of PhillyVoice.com, George Norcross’s forthcoming startup online news source.

Kempski is not the only new hire poached from Interstate General Media, where Norcross was a part-owner before losing an auction for the company earlier this year. Jonathan Tevis, who previously served as IGM’s spokesman — representing the Inquirer, Daily News, and Philly.com to the press and public — is joining PhillyVoice.com as director of external relations.

Both moves were announced Monday afternoon in a press release.
Read more »

George Norcross Back in Journalism With the Philly Voice

norcross-philly-voice-940x540

Less than six months since he was outbid for the company that owns the Philadelphia Inquirer, Daily News and Philly.com, it looks like South Jersey powerhouse George Norcross is ready to jump back into the oh-so-lucrative game of local journalism, joining BillyPenn.com and the maybe-one-day-it-will-happen, Ajay Raju-backed Philadelphia Citizen in the field of Philadelphia news startups. Read more »

6 Burning Questions About the New Owners of the Inquirer and Daily News

Attorney Richard Sprague, left, advised Lew Katz, center, and Gerry Lenfest on their bid to control the Inquirer and Daily News.

Attorney Richard Sprague, left, advised Lewis Katz, center, and H.F. “Gerry” Lenfest on their bid to control the Inquirer and Daily News.

Now that the Inky ownership battle has been resolved in favor of Lewis Katz and H.F. “Gerry” Lenfest, the guys we used to refer to as the “minority ownership faction” of the Inquirer, Daily News, and Philly.com — we’ll just refer to them as the “owners” from now on — we’ve got a few burning questions about the future of the newspapers

•Does anybody know what to do next? Sure doesn’t look like it. As soon as Messrs. Katz and  Lenfest presented themselves to the media, reporters questioned them about the future of the papers: Who will be publisher? How to address declining circulation? Will there still be three websites? How to address declining revenue? What’s the plan?

The plan, reporters were told repeatedly, hasn’t been developed yet.

“We have to figure out the future,” Lenfest said. “We’re not there yet.”

Read more »

Katz, Lenfest Winners of Inquirer, Daily News, Philly.com Auction

Philanthropist H.G. "Gerry" Lenfest, left, and businessman Lewis Katz arrive for a closed-door auction to buy the The Philadelphia Inquirer and Philadelphia Daily News Tuesday, May 27, 2014, in Philadelphia. Katz and Lenfest are taking over Philadelphia's two largest newspapers with an $88 million auction bid. AP Photo | Matt Rourke

Philanthropist H.G. “Gerry” Lenfest, left, and businessman Lewis Katz arrive for a closed-door auction to buy the The Philadelphia Inquirer and Philadelphia Daily News Tuesday, May 27, 2014, in Philadelphia. Katz and Lenfest are taking over Philadelphia’s two largest newspapers with an $88 million auction bid. AP Photo | Matt Rourke

Joel Mathis is on the scene of the auction of the Inquirer and Daily News, where it’s just been announced that the group led by Lewis Katz and H. F. “Gerry” Lenfest has emerged victorious with a winning bid of $88 million. We’ll be updating this post throughout the day.

Read more »

Judge: Media Will Be Shut Out of Newspaper Auction

Make of this what you will: The media will be shut out of next week’s auction of the Inquirer, Daily News, and Philly.com.

The “closed” auction will take place between two current factions of ownership — the majority faction led by George Norcross and the minority faction led by Lewis Katz. It was Katz that asked for the auction to be shut off from the prying eyes of, well, his own employees. On Tuesday, the Delaware judge overseeing the auction agreed.

However: The judge also ordered the the identity of the prevailing party and the identity of the prevailing bid should be made public. Since Norcross will open bidding at $77 million, we’ll at least have enough information to know if the Katz group made a bid.

Read more »

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