Dark Money Fundraiser Planned for Democratic Senate Hopeful in Pennsylvania

Still silent on Citizens United, Katie McGinty gets backing from head of dark money group

Katie McGinty
Katie McGinty / AP

The head of a Pennsylvania dark money group that has flooded local elections with campaign cash will host a fundraiser for Pennsylvania Democratic Senate hopeful Katie McGinty, who has yet to take a stand on Citizens United.

The McGinty fundraiser will be hosted by Alison Perelman, who is the executive director of Philadelphia 3.0, a 501(c)(4) that chooses not to disclose its donors and was able to shape Philadelphia’s City Council this year by spending nearly $500,000 in the weeks leading up to the election.

Ed Rendell, the former governor of Pennsylvania who was named chairman of the McGinty campaign shortly after its launch, will attend the fundraiser. It is unclear whether McGinty will be at the fundraiser.

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Perelman defended the structure of Philadelphia 3.0, stating that disclosing donors would "distract" voters from the group’s mission.

"We think it distracts from our mission, which is to talk about these issues that no one is discussing," Perelman told Philly.com earlier this year. "As an organization, we’re not about individuals."

When pressed further Perelman declined to give any more information, stating that she "can’t confirm or deny the involvement of anyone in the organization."

The group’s structure allows for it to be exempt from campaign contribution limits, which are set at $2,900 for individuals and $11,500 for political action committees in Philadelphia.

Unlike Joe Sestak, the former congressman who is her main opponent in the Democratic primary, McGinty has not taken a position on the role of dark money in politics.

Her campaign did not respond to emails asking for her position on the issue.

Sestak has long been an opponent of the Supreme Court’s ruling on Citizens United, which made it possible for groups such as Philadelphia 3.0 to spend unlimited money on elections and keep its donors anonymous. He called the ruling "disastrous."

It should be unsurprising, then, that the man believed to be main financial backer of Philadelphia 3.0 is no fan of Sestak.

The idea for the group was hatched in the offices of the Philadelphia real estate mogul Joseph Zuritsky, who has made nearly $200,000 worth of political donations, almost entirely to Democrats, and has been a consistent donor since the 1980s.

While most Pennsylvania Democrats have received multiple checks from Zuritsky, Sestak has received only one small contribution of $250 in 2006.

Zuritsky was a major financial backer of Arlen Specter, who was defeated in the 2010 Democratic primary by Sestak, who then lost the general election to Sen. Pat Toomey, the current holder of the seat. He gave $5,200 to Specter, $4,800 of which was refunded when Specter lost. He did not contribute to Sestak during his fight with Toomey.

Before McGinty emerged as a candidate this July, it appears that Zuritsky may have considered supporting Toomey over Sestak this time around. He contributed $500 to Toomey in March of this year.

McGinty has emerged as the clear choice of the Democratic establishment in her battle with Sestak. Senate Minority Leader Harry Reid said last month that she would win the primary and that he wished that Sestak were not running.