The Commonwealth Leaders Fund, a conservative political action committee with ties to a web of dark money organizations, dropped $100,000 into Jeremy Shaffer’s campaign on August 8th. The donation to Shaffer’s campaign came at the same time when the Commonwealth Leaders Fund conducted a poll showing Scott Wagner and Lou Barletta within two to three points of Tom Wolf and Bob Casey.
Campaign finance reporting shows that the organization first started accepting contributions in 2017. The first big contributions came from Howard Rich, a Philadelphia based real estate investor who founded U.S. Term Limits, and David Barnsfeld, the former chairman of the Commonwealth Foundation. Both of these men gave the organization $20,000. Earlier this year, Gerald Alexander, a professor at the University of Virginia and former scholar at the American Enterprise Institute, gave $50,000 to the Commonwealth Leaders Fund. Then over the summer, Commonwealth Leaders Fund received $2.75 million from Students First, a pro-charter school committee with ties to Philadelphia area hedge fund managers and Betsy DeVos’ American Federation of Children.
Other notable contributions came from Charles Mitchell, who is president of the Commonwealth Foundation and a trustee for the Fairness Center, and Matt Brouillette, the former Vice President of the Commonwealth Foundation and the founder of the Commonwealth Partners Chamber of Entrepreneurs. It should be noted that David Barnsfeld and Jeffrey Kendall, the chairman of the Commonwealth Leaders Fund, are both trustees with the Commonwealth Partners Chamber of Entrepreneurs.
Aside from giving Jeremy Shaffer $100,000 over the summer, the Commonwealth Leaders Fund gave Shaffer $10,000 after he beat Randy Vulakovich in the primary. The Leaders Fund also gave $200,000 to the Citizens Alliance of Pennsylvania.
If Shaffer is to win this seat, it’s going to be a tough challenge. The Pennsylvania 38th Senate District is located in the North Hills suburbs of Pittsburgh. It is one of many Republican controlled districts that voted for Hillary Clinton in 2016, and the Pittsburgh City Paper shows that democratic challenger Lindsey Williams is leading her race 52-43. That was from an internal poll provided by the local campaign. While Shaffer represents the forces driving the union busting campaigns in Pennsylvania, Williams is the exact opposite. Williams was fired from a job for organizing a union and then went on to work as a union organizer. Williams also has the benefit of running in a Senate district that overlaps with Connor Lamb’s congressional district. Both Williams and Lamb have made supporting unions a central theme in their campaigns. Lamb won a special election earlier this year by beating Rick Saccone in a wildly gerrymandered district that Trump carried by 20 points.