Monday, August 23, 2021

D.A. & West Coast PAC Obliterate Philly's Campaign Finance Laws

By Ralph Cipriano

The city of Philadelphia used to have a limit on annual donations that a political action committee could make to a local candidate.

But not any more.

Thanks to the dark alliance between D.A. Larry Krasner and the Real Justice PAC of San Francisco, Philadelphia's local campaign finance laws apparently are no longer in effect. At present, there appears to be no legal limit on how much money a PAC can drop on a local election here in Philadelphia. 

Krasner, the city's top law enforcement officer, and the Real Justice PAC have a history of lawless behavior when it comes to local limits on campaign contributions. 

In 2019, the city’s Board of Ethics levied a total of $23,000 in fines and forfeitures against both the Real Justice PAC and Krasner's campaign committee. That's because when Krasner first got elected D.A. in 2017, Real Justice gave him donations over and above the city's legal limit for annual contributions from a PAC, a spending limit that in 2017 was $23,800.

But that didn't stop Krasner and Real Justice from continuing to thumb their noses at city campaign finance law. Last year, the city imposed an even lower limit on annual contributions from a PAC, as in $12,600. But that didn't stop the Real Justice PAC last year from pouring more than $100,000 into Krasner's reelection committee. 

Those contributions included $75,000 in cash; $29,450 in rent money for an office at 1221 Locust Street co-owned by Krasner that's currently in arrears on taxes to the tune of $44,131; and $10,375 in in-kind contributions for Krasner’s campaign staffers supplied by Real Justice. 

But that's nothing compared to what they did this year. Over the first five months of 2021, when the legal limit on annual PAC donations was still at $12,600, the Real Justice PAC pumped some $100,000 a month, or a total of nearly $500,000, into Krasner's campaign coffers before the May 18th Democratic primary for D.A. 

And nobody in Philadelphia did anything about it.

How can Krasner and Real Justice get away with it?

On May 26th, Jessica Brand, a spokesperson for the Krasner campaign pictured above, told Ernest Owens of The Daily Beast that Krasner and Real Justice have supposedly redefined their relationship. 

“The arrangement between Real Justice PAC and the Krasner campaign was and is a fee-for-service relationship, as regularly occurs in campaign work between campaigns and consultants," Brand told Owens.

This revisionist history, however, ignores the fact that from 2017 until 2020, Real Justice operated in Philadelphia as a PAC that raised money from donors and then made contributions to Krasner's campaign committee. 

Neither Brand nor Krasner responded to requests for comment.

But according to what Brand told Owens, the Real Justice PAC is now just a campaign consultant for Krasner. So Real Justice apparently can raise as much money as they want to for the race for D.A. And they apparently no longer have to worry any more about flouting the city's annual limits on campaign contributions from a PAC. 

This year, before the May 18th Democratic primary for D.A., the Real Justice PAC bankrolled Krasner in two new ways.

In February, the Real Justice PAC began advertising online to "Help Re-Elect Larry Krasner And Stand with Us For Transformational Justice." The ads seeking donations all the way up to $1,000 and more stated that "Your contribution will be split evenly between Real Justice PAC - Unlimited and Larry Krasner."

Then, in April and May, Real Justice went online to solicit donations to benefit the Krasner campaign, but allowed its donors to make contributions directly to Krasner's campaign, instead of first running that money through the PAC.

As a result, the money came rolling into the Krasner campaign due to the efforts of Shaun King, co-founder of Real Justice. In May, during the last days of the campaign, King exulted on Twitter. "We've raised nearly $500,000," he told his three million followers, many of whom were pledging $5 a month to help Krasner win reelection as D.A.

"I've poured my heart and soul into this race," King wrote in another tweet. "It means that much to the future of Philadelphia and the future of our movement. Now we are 1 day away from Election Day and we are going to need Philly to show up strong. Y'all follow @LarryKrasner then click the [Real Justice] link in my bio to chip in to his campaign! Let's go."

The day Krasner won the primary, the Real Justice PAC tweeted congratulations to the D.A., and then did some bragging online.

"Here is what we accomplished due to everyone's hard work:
-- 442,185 calls
-- 327,635 texts
-- [knocked on]15,704 doors 
-- Raised $1.3 million from 22,422 donors."

"We made it clear that police unions and corrupt prosecutors won't stop our movement for accountability and justice," Real Justice declared.

Coincidentally, in 2020 and 2021, Krasner's campaign reported taking in a total of $1.3 million in donations. So, as far as Real Justice is concerned, every dollar that Krasner's campaign raised was a dollar that came through the PAC's efforts.

What does the city's Board of Ethics have to say about the new arrangement between Real Justice and the Krasner campaign committee?

In an email to J. Shane Creamer, the executive director of the Ethics Board, I wrote that "As the city's watchdog, if you're going to allow Krasner & Real Justice to get away with this . . .  you and your fellow board members should resign immediately, and run up the white flag outside your office, because from now on, anything goes."

Creamer's limp response: "I cannot offer any comment at this time." 

If it's legal, what Krasner and Real Justice did could dramatically alter all future city elections.

Attention City Council member Helen Gym and anybody else harboring aspirations for elected office in Philadelphia. If what Krasner and Real Justice are doing is legit, it means that any PAC can parachute into town in the future and spend unlimited money running a candidate's campaign, while controlling the entire affair.

All a PAC would have to do is to switch the donor button from the PAC to the candidate's campaign committee and all restrictions on annual donations from a PAC will magically disappear. 

One of the brains behind the Krasner-Real Justice alliance is Rebecca Bond, whom Larry Krasner has publicly hailed as one of the "smartest people" he knows.

Bond is the treasurer and co-founder of the Real Justice PAC, who has led the field operations in Krasner’s two victorious campaigns for D.A. Since 2016, Bond has set up two LLCs, a nonprofit and three PACs, including Real Justice, all of which operate out of the same small three-story building in the Mission District in San Francisco. 

Since 2017, according to campaign finance reports, some $10.7 million has circulated through Bond's two LLCs, nonprofit, and three PACs, including the Real Justice PAC.

According to its website, the Real Justice PAC was founded in 2017 to "fix our broken criminal justice system" by electing "reform" D.A.s across the country, the first of which was Krasner.

The arrangement between Krasner and his favorite PAC is so cozy that Krasner the candidate didn't have to get his hands dirty on the campaign trail by having to perform such mundane tasks as raising money, and staffing a campaign. 

For example, Krasner has a campaign manager, Brandon Evans, who's also the political director for Real Justice. But according to campaign finance reports, Krasner didn't have to pay Evans a cent.

That's because according to campaign finance reports, the Real Justice PAC paid Brandon Evans as of this summer a monthly salary of $10,416, or, over the past two years, a total of $100,395. 

Krasner also employed Jessica Brand as his campaign spokesperson, but, according to campaign finance reports, she has only cost his campaign this year a total of $21,000. Perhaps her rates are so low because Real Justice this year paid Wren Collective, a "strategic advising firm" headed by Brand, $46,000. 

Real Justice also paid the Grassroots Law Project, another Rebecca Bond outfit which also worked on the Krasner campaign, a total of $100,484 this year for "payroll" expenses.

This year, the Real Justice PAC also paid The Social Practice LLC $56,000 for "campaign consulting."

When the money from Real Justice poured in, the Krasner campaign committee subsequently acted to redistribute the wealth.

According to campaign finance records, between March 15th and May 13th, the Lawerence Krasner for District Attorney Committee paid The Social Practice LLC a total of $300,096. 

Krasner's campaign also returned some $57,750 to Real Justice's coffers. 

While working on the Krasner campaign, Shaun King's services included allegedly libeling Carlos Vega, Krasner's opponent who lost the Democratic primary.

According to a lawsuit filed by Vega against Shaun King, the Real Justice PAC, and the Krasner campaign, King repeatedly libeled Vega on the campaign trail.

Such as on May 13th, when King claimed that Vega "was fired from the DA's office for corruption and dishonesty." King also claimed that Vega "NEVER held police accountable."

Neither of these statements is true.

When Krasner took office in January, 2018, one of his first official acts was to fire 31 senior prosecutors in the D.A.'s office, including Vega, who responded by filing a lawsuit in U.S. District Court against Krasner, alleging age discrimination. 

In the lawsuit, which is pending, Krasner never alleged that Vega was guilty of any misconduct. That might pose a legal problem for Shaun King, who, in his online rants, referred to Vega, the first Latino homicide prosecutor in the Commonwealth, as "one of those corrupt supervillains."

Regarding holding cops accountable, according to Vega's lawsuit, he "successfully prosecuted Philadelphia Police Officer Ryan Shiver for two counts of homicide by vehicle while driving under influence stemming from a car crash that killed two Northeast Philadelphia brothers after a Super Bowl party. Shiver was sentenced to 6 to 12 years incarceration."

"Additionally, Mr. Vega coordinated a grand jury investigation which culminated in the indictment of Philadelphia Police Homicide Detective Ronald Dove for his involvement in helping his girlfriend, Erica Sanchez, evade investigators who suspected her in a homicide," Vega's lawsuit states. Both Dove and Sanchez wound up pleading guilty.

In the libel suit against King, Krasner and Real Justice, Vega's lawyers James Beasley Jr., Louis Tumolo, and Lane Jubb Jr. also accuse the defendants of conspiracy, money laundering and political payoffs.

"In a remarkably Machiavellian fashion, these defendants have conspired, for their own greed," the lawsuit begins. By "using Philadelphia’s citizens as a steppingstone for a desired national political presence," the lawsuit states, and lying to them, the defendants have conspired to funnel "significant funds . . . to line the pockets of defendant Shaun King, his Real Justice PAC, and the Krasner campaign."

"The sad reality is that neither Krasner nor King care a whit about Philadelphia, its citizens, or the malignantly expanding crime that is suffocating this city," Vega's lawyers state. "They will use whatever means are needed, including illegal and false smears against their adversaries, to achieve their goals."

Vega's lawsuit outlines how Real Justice used its campaign funds to pay off local politicians who backed Krasner for D.A., despite his woeful record on fighting crime.

"Real Justice used the money received from the Krasner campaign to launder funds to local Philadelphia politicians and their PAC to pay for their public endorsements of D.A. Krasner," Vega's lawyers wrote.

Real Justice paid a total of $18,000 to the PACS of three local politicians who endorsed Krasner for reelection, including City Council members Maria Quinones Sanchez and Jamie Gauthier, and state Rep. Joanna McClinton.

In April and May, King, Real Justice and the Krasner campaign deployed formerly convicted murderer and rapist Anthony Wright as a key part of the campaign against Vega.

On May 3rd, King tweeted, "Carlos Vega was fired by Larry [Krasner] in 2018 after being caught working with police to frame Anthony Wright for a crime he never committed."

According to Vega's lawyers, that's another big lie.

"Mr. Vega was not at all involved in the prosecution and conviction of Anthony Wright for the murder of Louise Talley in the 1993 trial – a fact well known to all defendants," Vega's lawyers wrote.

"Mr. Vega has never 'framed' any individual for any crime, including the heinous crime of murder."

Vega's lawyers argued that by putting Wright front and center in the campaign for D.A., Shaun King and Real Justice "placed Krasner's office in a direct conflict of interest."

The conflict: "having Anthony Wright support the campaign and spread more lies about Mr. Vega, while at the same time having an open DUI case against Wright in that office," the lawsuit states.

"One must wonder what breaks Mr. Wright will get for helping to smear Mr. Vega and get Krasner re-elected."

On the campaign trail, Wright, who was freed and subsequently collected a $10 million civil settlement from the city, was photographed time after time at Krasner's side.

"I think about Carlos Vega -- I think about the Devil. I Think About Evil." Wright said in a Krasner campaign poster.

Since Vega's libel suit was filed against him in May, King deleted six months worth of social media posts. In July, King announced that he was taking a break from social media when he deactivated his Twitter account. And he hasn't been back. 

One possible explanation for King's absence from social media -- maybe some defense lawyer finally got around to explaining libel law to King. And how there's a penalty under the law for making up vicious lies that damage a person's reputation.

Maybe that defense lawyer also explained how, in their joint conspiracy, King, Real Justice and the Krasner campaign are forever joined at the hip.

And that they are guilty as sin of libeling Carlos Vega. 


  1. Ralph, your communication with Board of Ethics and their lack of response and investigation of these horrific and fact-based allegations of impropriety makes it a "clean sweep" with respect to ALL of the city departments and agencies responsible for the control, management, review and investigation of ethics/integrity matters. Over several years now serious, fact-based allegations of unethical conduct and misconduct on the part of a senior deputy city solicitor has resulted in ZERO responses and investigations from the Chief Integrity Officer, Sarah Stevenson and the Inspector General of the City of Philadelphia, Alexander DeSantis.

    In this instance, the targeted senior deputy city solicitor, Daniel Cantu-Hertzler, was the winner of the first Integrity Award by the city in 2015. His immediate superior is the First Deputy City Solicitor, Craig Straw, is the INTEGRITY OFFICER IN THE OFFICE OF THE CITY SOLICITOR, and he too has received these allegations of misconduct and has not responded nor has he investigated these allegations.

    The slogan for these departments in city government charged with the monitoring, review and investigation of allegations of impropriety and unethical conduct is" INTEGRITY WORKS.

    Ralph, you and I both know that this slogan is simply not the case.

  2. Feds please come get this POS!

    1. Joe Biden's DOJ won't lift a finger to investigate Larry Krasner for anything.

    2. They certainly won't. The Feds might even be more corrupt.

    3. Joe Biden's fingers are busy....

  3. And where is wonder boy Joh Shapiro in all of this?

    1. Shapiro is too busy making sure nobody looks too closely at the 2020 Election and whining about "muh ghost guns". He will not lift a finger to stop corruption in philly or give a damn when violence explodes in philly due to the three stooges (krasner, kenney, outlaw).

  4. Ralph, Again, this is the only place one can read news like this...

  5. Rich Glazer+ Shane Creamer= Corruption!! Connect the dots. Ralph it looks like the FBI Public Corruption unit drags it's feet when it comes to corrupt White DA's. What gives???

  6. Sheesh!
    And it took Jim Kenney decades to monetize his "public service" and it's what Krasner done in but a few years!

  7. Ralph, you may have awoken some other newscasts, as KYW Newsradio has a caustic article blasting Krasner for lack of activity in the Phila crime problem. Contains quotes from the Delaware County DA blasting Krasner for his lack of teamwork with surrounding counties

  8. It's a shame that Chuck has to run against a stacked deck. Left Philly years ago and never looked back


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