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Who is bankrolling Pa.’s key judicial races?

Plus, expanded voter ID is back on the table.

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Wednesday, October 4, 2023
In today's edition: Court donors, voter ID, 2020 allegations, Fed visit, on the books, solitary confinement, and Highway to Hellbender. 
A group almost entirely funded by Pennsylvania's richest person — libertarian billionaire Jeff Yass — has made a third of all donations to statewide judicial candidates in this election, more than $2 million of it to Republicans.

The Yass-linked Commonwealth Leaders Fund has spent over $2.7 million so far, the lion's share to support one candidate: Montgomery County judge Carolyn Carluccio, a Republican running for state Supreme Court. 

Read Spotlight PA's full report on who is spending money to influence Pa.'s critical races for Commonwealth, Superior, and Supreme Courts.

THE CONTEXT: Democratic donors have also thrown big money behind that party’s candidates, including state Supreme Court hopeful Daniel McCaffery. The ACLU and Planned Parenthood are also taking an interest in that race, a potentially pivotal one for voting rights, abortion access, and more.

McCaffery has raised $2 million since the start of the year. Republican candidate Carluccio has raked in $3.4 million during the same time period, $2.1 million of it from the Commonwealth Leaders Fund.

Spotlight PA reports the strategy appears to have worked before. State Supreme Court Justice Kevin Brobson, who ran as a Republican, narrowly won an open seat on the high court in 2021 with $3.4 million in his campaign coffers, roughly two-thirds from the Commonwealth Leaders Fund.

“The office of Speaker of the House of the United States House of Representatives is hereby declared vacant.”

U.S. Rep. Steve Womack (R., Ark.) after the U.S. House voted to oust Kevin McCarthy as speaker on Tuesday; all Pennsylvania Democrats voted in favor of the motion to vacate; all Pennsylvania Republicans voted no
At Spotlight PA, we put voters front and center in our nonpartisan election coverage. Get all the information you need to make an informed vote this September by visiting our Election Center website

» Complete guide to the candidates for Pennsylvania Supreme Court

» Complete guide to the candidates for Commonwealth, Superior Courts

» What to know about the judicial retention questions on Pa. ballots

» Una guía de los candidatos a la Corte Suprema del estado

» Una guía de los candidatos a la Commonwealth y las Cortes Superiores

» Support Spotlight PA's vital, nonpartisan election reporting by making a gift now!
Support Spotlight PA's investigative journalism for Pennsylvania and for a limited time, your gift will be DOUBLED.
» STORY FEST: Spotlight PA is participating in Philly Story Fest, a first-of-its-kind festival that brings together storytellers from across the city on one stage. Join us Thursday, Oct. 5 from 7-10 p.m. at the Bok building in South Philadelphia (1901 South 9th St.). Tickets are $25 and available here.

» PATH TO EQUITY: Join Spotlight PA for its first in-person summit on Wednesday, Oct. 11, from 11:30 a.m. to 4:30 p.m. at the Whitaker Center in Harrisburg. Spotlight PA is co-presenting this event with Color & Culture, a Pennsylvania marketing firm. Tickets are on sale at this link until sold out.

» ELECTION 101: Join Spotlight PA’s government reporters Kate Huangpu and Stephen Caruso on Thursday, Oct. 12 from 6-7 p.m. ET on Zoom for a free panel on Pa.’s 2023 judicial candidates. Register for the event here and submit your questions to events@spotlightpa.org

A shady sycamore along the Clarion River in Cook Forest State Park, via Jamie S. Have a Pennsylvania photo to share? Send it to us by email, use #PAGems on Instagram, or tag us @spotlightpennsylvania.

A shady spot under a tree next to water.
Today's top news story in Pennsylvania.VOTER ID: Expanded voter ID is back on the table in Pennsylvania, this time as part of a larger proposal to change the date of the 2024 presidential primary, Spotlight PA reports. The Democratic-controlled state House is expected to consider a GOP-authored amendment this week that would require voters to show proof of ID every time they cast a ballot in person, not just their first time at a given polling place.Today's second top news story in Pennsylvania.FALSE REPORT: Cybersecurity company XRVision claims an attorney for Fulton County, Pennsylvania, requested a falsified report on voting machines used in the 2020 election there, Erie Times-News (paywall) reports. The suit was filed in Michigan against pro-Trump lawyer Stefanie Lambert, her law office, and Pennsylvania businessman and pro-Trump fake elector Bill Bachenberg, who allegedly bankrolled the effort.

Today's third top news story in Pennsylvania.FED TOUR: Federal Reserve Chair Jerome Powell was in York on Monday for a day tour that included lots of concerns about inflation from locals who "have lived with rising prices and navigated the fallout from the Fed's rate-hiking response," Reuters reports. The outlet says it was Powell's first in-person sit-down and walking tour since the pandemic began, and comes amid record-low public support for him.

Today's fourth top news story in Pennsylvania.BANNED BOOKS: It's Banned Books Week, and the Washington Post (paywall) reports just 11 adults are responsible for 60% of requests to ban select books in school libraries nationwide. In related news: State Sen. Amanda Cappelletti (D., Montgomery) has introduced a bill that would bar public libraries from banning books or risk losing their state funding. WITF and LNP report it's unlikely to pass.

Today's fifth top news story in Pennsylvania.SOLITARY UNIT: A Pennsylvania state prison solitary confinement unit is driving people to suicide, according to a new lawsuit filed by civil rights groups. The complaint alleges harrowing conditions inside the Security Threat Group Management Unit at SCI Fayette and calls for the unit to be shuttered, per The Appeal. A Pennsylvania Institutional Law Project rep says the program is unconstitutional.
Join Spotlight PA for an exclusive event on equity and voting. Get your tickets now.

THIS IS A TEST: Expect a jarring notice on your cellphone, television, or radio today, around 2:20 p.m., as the federal government conducts a nationwide test of the emergency alert system, via NPR.

FIRST CASE: Pittsburgh's first West Nile virus case of the year was fatal, killing a woman in her 80s, WPXI reports. About 1 in 150 infected people develop a serious, sometimes fatal, illness, per the CDC.

KRUGER'S CASE: Police say they've identified a person of interest in the fatal shooting of Philadelphia journalist Josh Kruger. The individual has not been named publicly and no arrests were made as of Tuesday afternoon.

PAPER PLAY: The Philadelphia Inquirer is launching a major ad campaign, its first in decades. The goal? To attract younger subscribers, per Axios. All five major Philly sports teams have loaned their logos to the effort.

CATCH HELL: Congrats to the eastern hellbender, aka the snot otter, aka Pennsylvania's official state amphibian: WNEP reports the giant, prehistoric salamander is getting its own Pennsylvania license plate.

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