Wednesday, April 16, 2014
Inquirer Daily News

A stealthy new PAC, the Philly Archdiocese, and the big-money push for "vouchers lite"

A stealthy new PAC, the Philly Archdiocese, and the big-money push for "vouchers lite"

This is the story I've been working on for the past week, Check it out:

A NEW, big-money political-action committee turned up on the Pennsylvania radar screen this spring — at exactly the same time that the Philadelphia Archdiocese launched a full-court press for legislation in Harrisburg that would pump millions of dollars of scholarship money into its struggling schools.

The new Fighting Chance PA PAC shares a name with a self-described grass-roots campaign launched in March by the Pennsylvania Catholic Coalition, and it shares office space with wealthy King of Prussia developer Brian O'Neill, who spearheaded a drive to raise $12 million from 10 anonymous donors earlier this year to keep open four endangered Catholic high schools.

In just a couple of months, the Fighting Chance PA PAC already has doled out $225,000 to pro-voucher state lawmakers and other political committees in Harrisburg. Its biggest donation to an individual lawmaker, $25,000, was handed to obscure GOP Rep. Jim Christiana of Beaver County on May 9 — one month before Christiana introduced a bill that would support scholarships for Catholic and other nonpublic schools but would cost the state as much as $75 million.

Ironically, the money that the PAC has raised hasn't come from any source traditionally tied to the Archdiocese: The entire $395,000 has come from three wealthy Bala Cynwyd-based hedge-fund founders — and their Students First PA PAC — who have spent millions since 2010 on Pennsylvania candidates who support vouchers and school choice.

Read the whole story. Is there more to come on this? Stay tuned.

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Will Bunch
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