HARRISBURG, Pa. — Wealthy school-choice advocates, wielding millions of dollars in campaign contributions, have sought to play a powerful role in Pennsylvania politics. All told, more than $10 million from school-choice advocates has made its way into Pennsylvania political campaigns in the past decade.
Much of it came from a suburban Philadelphia trio who helped start Susquehanna International Group, an investment firm, and give heavily to school choice causes and candidates. And much of it has gone to help Philadelphia state Sen. Anthony Williams, who has run unsuccessfully for mayor and governor as the school choice candidate in the Democratic Party’s primaries.
The Associated Press examined political contributions over a 10-year period by the people who have been major contributors to advance school choice measures such as public charter schools and programs to use taxpayer funding to pay for private school tuition.
In 2010 alone, Arthur Dantchik, Joel Greenberg and Jeffrey Yass gave roughly $5 million to help Williams’ gubernatorial campaign, and then outdid that by pouring roughly $7 million into helping Williams’ campaign for Philadelphia mayor in 2015. Williams lost both times, and remains in the Senate.
Meanwhile, a little over $1.2 million has trickled into Pennsylvania from a loose-knit group of some of the country’s wealthiest people who have underwritten the political push for school choice, according to an Associated Press analysis.
That group — 48 individuals and couples who have given at least $100,000 to related ballot measure campaigns in other states — contributed a total of more than $200 million from 2007 through last year to candidates and political action committees, some of which are supporters of school choice.
More than half of the money that came to Pennsylvania — $700,000 from Chicago industrialist Barre Seid — went to Williams’ campaign for governor.
The DeVos family — including President Donald Trump’s education secretary, Betsy DeVos — has given a relatively meager $44,000 to Pennsylvania politicians since 2007, nearly all of it to candidates for Congress, according to AP’s analysis.
Pennsylvania has not seen a ballot question related to school choice.