Reclaim Philly Invades DNC Head Committee & Comcast (7-6-16)

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Reclaim Philly at Comcast, July 6, 2016. (Photo by Philly Metro)

Reclaim Philadelphia, a former Bernie Sanders group in Philly that re-shifted gears in the post-primary election period, launched its first direct action on July 6, 2016. Reclaim set its sight on the DNC Head Committee (“PHL 2016” is it’s corporate name), a nonprofit charged with fundraising for the Philly DNC in July.  Reclaim called for its three-head members to resign – former mayor and governor Ed Rendell; Daniel Hilferty, a “Republican” and CEO of Independence Blue Cross; and David Cohen, executive Vice President of Comcast. A letter by Reclaim from June 22 stated about these three members: “The three figures are multimillionaire lobbyists and high-profile supporters of political positions that most Democrats abhor…Granting lobbyists privileged access to elected officials reveals the Party leadership’s hypocrisy.”  Reclaim’s letter demanded a response by July 1, or else they “intend to take direct action to follow up with each of the three host committee members.”

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Comcast. (Photo by Metro)

According to the online news site Billy Penn, the Host Committee “is required to submit quarterly fundraising reports and the names of contributors to PAID [Philadelphia Authority for Industrial Development], the public agency acting as liaison between the bank and Committee, as conditions of the loan agreement.” In the spring a reporter from the Declaration, Dustin Slaughter, filed a Right-to-Know request, demanding PHL 2016 to release its financial reports.  The state’s Office of Open Records ruled in the Declaration’s favor on June 14, and ordered the city to release the financial records of PHL 2016 “within 30 days.”  That meant PHL 2016 had until July 14 to release the financial records. Philly.com headlined a June 22 article, “Philly DNC organizers: What are you hiding?”  PHL 2016 apparently ignored the state’s ruling and announced it wouldn’t release the financial records until 60 days after the DNC, sometime in September.  This was in contrast to the RNC in Philly in 2000, when the city’s host committee released its donors prior to the convention.

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Security at Comcast. (Photo by Metro)

On July 6, eight days prior to the due date for PHL 2016 to release its records, nearly 30 Reclaim activists gathered at Love Park at noon, and were greeted by numerous press outlets. “We want to call attention to the corrupting role of money in politics,” organizer Alex Nagle told CBS. Organizer Xelba Gutierrez was quoted by Philly.com referring to the lack of progressiveness in Hillary Clinton’s platform: “We don’t want lobbyists that are in complete contrast to the platform that they are supposed to be working on.”  She suspected financial corruption influenced the DNC host committee: “There’s got to be a reason why they aren’t showing it.”  She clarified this accusation against the host committee for the online news outlet News Works: They are very ingrained in the machine of lobbyists-influencing-policy.”  Organizer Lev Hirschorn explained to Philly Metro“Most of the people here were Bernie Sanders voters, but this is bigger than Bernie.” He repeated the need to get big money out of politics in order to redeem democracy in the voting arena: “Corporations, CEOs, millionaires, billionaires have way too much influence on the political system. They can pass an agenda that is opposed not just by a majority of Americans, but by the vast majority of Democrats.”

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Xelba Gutierrez at Love Park, July 6. (Photo by Philly.com)

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Press and activists gather at Love Park, July 6.

We marched from Love Park  to the lobby inside the Comcast building, where a 3-person delegation delivered a letter demanding DNC host committee to publicly reveal the financial records and the lobbying donors for the DNC, as well as calling for their resignation.  Reclaim kept the Comcast protest on the down low prior to the action in order to get inside the building and deliver the letter.  Yet when we entered Comcast we were greeted by security, who prevented us from reaching the first set of stairs.  We stood inside Comcast for the next ten minutes waving our “Resign Cohen” and “Resign Rendell” signs, while activists spoke with security.  We left after security promised to accept the letter and deliver it to their offices.

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Activists marching out of Comcast and through the cafeteria. (Photo by Metro)

We then marched to Ballard Spahr LLP, where Rendell is a partner, and once again a three-person delegation left the letter with security.  The remaining activists protested out front of the building, where a Reverend made a speech in support of the activists.  Chants included: “Release the records! Reveal your donors!” – “Hey hey, ho ho! The host committee’s got to go!” – “DNC, reveal your donors! We don’t like your corporate owners!” Finally we marched to Independence Blue Cross, where Hilferty was CEO. Reclaim said in a letter that Hilferty voted against Obamacare.  Just like at the two other buildings, the three-person delegation handed the letter to security, who promised to deliver it to Hilferty’s office, before asking the delegation to leave.

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Photo taken at Love Park after the protests that day.

Reclaim Philly seems to be ahead of the curve by establishing one of the first post-Bernie Sanders grassroots organizations.  Since the majority of the members previously worked together in the Philly Bernie Sanders campaign, the new organization serves as a healthy guide of transitioning from an election campaign organization to a direct action-oriented, grassroots organization.  Moreover, Reclaim Philly wisely took on the issue of getting big money out of politics, perhaps the single most important issue of the Sanders campaign, which is now gaining popularity among the youth.  Only the month prior to the establishment of Reclaim Philly, over 1,300 demonstrators were arrested in D.C. in the largest mass arrest of the 21st century to demand big money out of politics under the organization Democracy Spring.

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Emily Strausbaugh speaking to activists. (Photo from Metro)

NewsWorks (July 6)

Philly.com  (July 6)

Philly Metro (July 6)

CBS Philly (July 6)

Philly.com  (June 28)

Philly.com  (June 22)

The Declaration (June 22)

Philly.com (June 16)

The Declaration (June 15)

Billy Penn (June 6)

Philly.com (May 30)

Docket # 2016-0769 (11 pages)

PHL Documents (14 pages)

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