To Resist Trump, Fix Philly’s Elite, Boring, Anti-Competitive Democratic Party

Bob Brady, Leslie Acosta and Chaka Fattah.

Bob Brady, Leslie Acosta and Chaka Fattah. Photos Jeff Fusco, Pa. House, Matt Rourke via AP

Philadelphia’s Democratic Party suffers from the same cancer as the national Democratic Party. Only it’s arguably much more advanced.

Think the Democratic National Committee favored Hillary Clinton over Bernie Sanders behind closed doors? In Philadelphia, the Democratic City Committee paves the way for its preferred candidates out in the open, without any shame: Before the mayoral primary even started, Philly Democratic Party boss Bob Brady publicly threw his weight behind state Sen. Tony Williams. The party puts its thumb on the scales in Democratic primaries for the judiciary, City Council and General Assembly, too, and its endorsements matter even more in these races because so few people pay close attention to them.

Think the national Democratic Party turns a blind eye to corruption? Earlier this year, the Democratic City Committee endorsed Chaka Fattah for Congress after he was charged with using taxpayer dollars and charitable donations to pay back an illegal loan. How could the party do this, as its schools were starving and its constituents were sinking deeper and deeper into poverty? Oh, but it gets worse: This month, Philly Democratic state Rep. Leslie Acosta was reelected after pleading guilty to conspiring to commit money laundering at a mental health clinic in one of the poorest neighborhoods in the city. Imagine how selfish you have to be to run for office after admitting to bilking the most vulnerable among us — and imagine how little she’ll be able to get done for her constituents, many of whom are Latinos and immigrants, now that she’s the laughingstock of Harrisburg. The list goes on and on. Over the summer, the FBI raided the offices of Democratic Councilman Bobby Henon and subpoenaed Mayor Jim Kenney’s campaign finance records. The feds are also reportedly investigating Democratic District Attorney Seth Williams.

Think the national Democrats are boring and not liberal enough? Let me introduce you to Katie McGinty, the uncharismatic Senate candidate who lost to Pat Toomey in an election that Democrats desperately needed to win in case of a Donald Trump upset. A lot has been made of the fact that McGinty, a moderate who supports fracking and is wishy-washy on sanctuary cities, received millions of dollars from the Democratic Senatorial Campaign Committee in the primary. What has gotten much less attention is the fact that she was just as much a product of the Philadelphia Democratic Party as the DSCC. Everyone from Brady to former Gov. Ed Rendell to former Mayor Michael Nutter to numerous City Council members backed her in the primary over Democrats John Fetterman and Joe Sestak, two anti-establishment figures who might have fared better in a year in which people were clearly crying out for change. Read more »

D.A.’s Office to Release Files on Police Shootings

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District Attorney Seth Williams on Thursday morning outlined a handful of new steps his office is taking to assure the public that investigations into police shootings are conducted fairly.

The new protocol — which has already drawn the ire of the Fraternal Order of Police Lodge No. 5 — will require an on-duty prosecutor from the office’s Special Investigations Unit to head to the scene of all police shootings, then review paperwork and and speak to police officials. In the event of a fatal shooting, the prosecutor will additionally contact the victim’s family and invite them to the D.A.’s Office to discuss how the ensuing investigation will unfold. Read more »

Philly D.A.: No “Founded” Complaints About Voter Fraud or Intimidation

District Attorney Seth Williams | Photo by Matt Rourke/AP

District Attorney Seth Williams | Photo by Matt Rourke/AP

In the weeks leading up to Election Day, Democrats worried that voters could face intimidation at the polls in Philadelphia. Republicans warned of potential voter fraud.

But so far, Philadelphia District Attorney Seth Williams says, there have been no “founded” complaints about either problem in the city.  Read more »

Meet Joe Khan, the Man Who Wants to Unseat D.A. Seth Williams

Joe Khan announcing his intention to run against District Attorney Seth Williams in the May 2017 Democratic primary. Photo by Morgan Jenkins

Joe Khan announcing his intention to run against District Attorney Seth Williams in the May 2017 Democratic primary. Photo by Morgan Jenkins

On Thursday, former federal prosecutor Joe Khan announced that he will challenge District Attorney Seth Williams in May’s Democratic primary. Prior to his press conference, we spoke with Khan to see what we can expect from the contest. Read more »

Delaware County DNC Delegate Charged With Indecent Assault

Stage and podium at the Democratic National Convention, with Philadelphia skyline and Liberty Bell

The stage at the 2016 Democratic National Convention. (Photo: Dan McQuade)

The District Attorney’s office has decided to press charges against a Democratic National Convention delegate from Delaware County who allegedly assaulted a fellow delegate during the DNC in July.

The office initially decided not to take action last month, prompting widespread attention and outrage from the accuser, Gwen Snyder, and others who claimed that the D.A.’s office had been dismissive and that the assault had not been properly investigated. Read more »

Who’s Behind Phone Survey Critical of Seth Williams?

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The other day I answered a phone call and found myself taking a 15-minute survey about District Attorney Seth Williams and a former and possible future challenger, Michael Untermeyer.

I was trying not to provide strong opinions (which as a reporter I of course don’t have to begin with), but I wanted to hear the questions, so I used the words “uncertain” and “somewhat” a lot. It was a pretty eye-opening survey, even as someone who’s followed the recent news about Williams fairly closely.  Read more »

Arrest Made in Tire Slashing at D.A.’s House

District Attorney Seth Williams | Photo by Matt Rourke/AP

District Attorney Seth Williams | Photo by Matt Rourke/AP

The Great Philadelphia Tire Slashing Mystery of 2015 has apparently been solved at long last.

According to an affidavit of probable cause obtained by Philadelphia magazine, a suspect named Stacey Cummings is being charged with misdemeanor counts of criminal mischief and possession of an instrument of crime for allegedly slashing tires on two city security vehicles outside the Overbrook home of District Attorney Seth Williams back in November.

Read more »

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