Quetcy Lozada responds to independent Yass contributions to her reelection campaign
“I have no idea who [Jeffrey Yass] is,” City Councilmember Quetcy Lozada said in an interview with AL DÍA News.
MORE IN THIS SECTION
Last week, campaign finance reports revealed that Jeffrey Yass, a Republican billionaire and generous political donor, had spent $400,000 via a Super PAC into a number of Philadelphia races for City Council.
District 7 Councilmember Quetcy Lozada, who was one of the many beneficiaries through means of independent expenditures on radio ads, billboards, and a page in AL DÍA, said she was unaware of the expenses until an interview with AL DÍA reporters.
“We don't have a relationship, nor are we in communication with independent expenditures,” admitted Lozada, responding to questions about the expenditures. “We don’t know what they’re investing in. We don’t know any of that.”
Super PACs, or groups that spend well during election cycles, can contribute unlimited sums so long as it doesn’t coordinate with candidates or campaigns directly, per campaign finance law.
Philly for Growth, a Super PAC, is funded through Commonwealth Children’s Choice Fund, which is in turn financed by Yass. The Super PAC spent $400,000 to promote a slate of City Council candidates, sparking concern among progressive groups based in the city.
Philly for Growth, reports found, paid $86,000 for expenses related to ad production, radio commercials, a digital billboard, newspaper, and web ads.
Responding to whether she was aware of the running expenses from Yass, who, in the past, has reportedly invested millions of dollars into the charter school system, Lozada said she was not privy to those expenses, save for a promoted post on Facebook and a digital billboard on Aramingo Avenue.
Lozada told AL DÍA News that she had not met nor planned to sit down with Yass or anyone in his sphere to address issues related to District 7, saying, “[Jeffrey Yass] probably doesn’t even know where the 7th council district is or who lives here.”
“I’m not really sure why he would take an interest so directly.”
But because there is a gap between where independent groups put their dollars and a candidate’s wherewithal to keep up with donations, most responded after groups flagged the donations by Yass.
Among the additional candidates whose campaigns benefited from the independent expenditures besides Lozada are Job Itzkowitz, Erin Santamoor, and Donovan West — all three of whom are vying for City Council at-Large seats.
Two other incumbents — Councilmembers Isiah Thomas and Katherine Gilmore Richardson — also benefited from independent expenditures. Thomas, Gilmore Richardson, and Itzkowitz have said they are not accountable to Yass despite his contributions.
“I have not and would not accept campaign money from Mr. Yass or his fund. The tweet refers to an independent group making their own funding and spending decisions,” Itzkowitz wrote to a user on Twitter.
But groups who consider Yass dollars a poison pill for campaigns remained vigilant.
“We’re glad to see three out of the six Yass-backed candidates saying swiftly that they are not accountable to a Republican mega-donor. Why haven’t Santamoor, West, and Lozada spoken out yet?” questioned Sergio Cea, the political director at Reclaim Philadelphia, one of the groups who, in unison with others, enjoined the remaining beneficiaries to symbolically reject Yass’ contributions.
“Do they support Yass’ position on privatizing our public schools and not paying taxes? Until these candidates speak out, that is what their silence implies,” Cea wrote in the statement.
The groups that teamed up in the pushback include One Pennsylvania, Free the Ballot, and Free the Ballot, three progressive organizations that recently hosted the first public debate featuring almost all active candidates in the race for at-Large city council seats.
“Many candidates are focused on their individual races,” Lozada said of the joint statement, released this week as pressure mounted for recipients to issue a public response to Yass’ contributions.
And although Lozada didn’t discount the possibility of meeting with Yass because she is “the kind of person who would sit down with anyone,” she said they “wouldn’t have anything to talk about.”
“From what I hear about this individual person, he is not someone who I believe would even come here. I don’t think that we would have anything to really talk about. I don’t think this is an individual who understands the challenges that are happening here on a day-to-day.”
“I don’t think that’s something that would even happen,” said Lozada of a potential face-to-face with Yass in the future.
Of the statement sent by progressive groups requesting reactions from Yass’s contributions, Lozada said she had not received outreach from anyone directly.