‘Demanding justice’: Issues group run by former Wolf aide launches first salvo at GOP Legislature | Thursday Morning Coffee

July 2, 2020 7:04 am

(Commonwealth Communications, screencapture)

(*Updated, 8:39 a.m., 7/2/20: This story has been updated to correctly identify J.J. Abbott as Gov. Tom Wolf’s former press secretary. A previous version of this story misstated his former position.) 

Good Thursday Morning, Fellow Seekers.

It’s been a few minutes … okay, it’s been a lifetime in pandemic time … since former Wolf administration spokesman J.J Abbott left government service for a career in the private sector. And in the intervening months, the normally combative spox has kept a pretty low public profile — unless you’ve stumbled across his Twitter account, where he’s remained as voluble and opinionated as ever.

Well, Abbott is back, with a new firm, Commonwealth Communications, which finds him doing in private life much the same thing he did while serving as Gov. Tom Wolf’s press secretary*: Professionally annoying the Republican-controlled General Assembly, and big-upping progressive causes in an election year and beyond.

The opening salvo from the 501(c)(4), we can exclusively reveal, is a six-figure digital campaign aimed at “[juxtaposing] the early June protests uniting Pennsylvanians against systemic racism and inequality with the legislature’s divisive and reckless vote to end the governor’s disaster declaration,” according to a statement obtained by the Capital-Star.

The debut, 30-second spot, called “Demanding Justice,” was produced by Abbott’s staff, which includes veterans of Elizabeth Warren’s and Michael Bloomberg’s presidential campaigns.

The video includes a montage of images of the June anti-racism protest initially sparked by George Floyd’s death in police custody in Minneapolis, as a narrator intones: “Across Pennsylvania, people are coming together demanding justice. Small towns, big cities, coming together against racism, division and inequality.”

The ad calls for spending less on police and prisons, thus freeing up cash for healthcare and schools, while it accuses the GOP-led Legislature of “dividing us,” by seeking to overturn the administration’s COVID-19 emergency order (the state Supreme Court rejected the GOP’s effort to overturn the order on Thursday).

“Tell them to listen up,” the video’s narrator continues. “We demand justice for all.”

The ad notably does not fault the Legislature on matters of police reform. This week, the Senate sent Wolf a pair of reform bills. The House is expected to follow suit next week.

Nonetheless, Abbott said in a statement that his shop remains committed to flipping “… the legislature, [expelling] Donald Trump from the White House, and [securing] a future for Pennsylvania that benefits all of us, not just the wealthy and well-connected.”

Yep, it’s an election year, alright.

The Pennsylvania Capitol building. (Capital-Star photo by Sarah Anne Hughes)

Our Stuff.
Here’s the full story on that Pa. Supreme Court decision from Stephen Caruso and Elizabeth Hardison.

The Wolf administration has made mask use mandatory in all public spaces — including while exercising, Caruso and Correspondent Kim Lyons report.

Caruso has what you need to know about a legislative plastic bag study that utilized industry research, but nonetheless concluded that charging Pennsylvanians a fee for every bag they use would be a good idea.

U.S. Rep. Brian Fitzpatrick, R-1st Districtcast a largely consequence-free ballot Wednesday, voting to approve a $1.5T infrastructure bill that’s been declared DOA in the Senate, because, the Senate. Capital-Star Washington Reporter Allison Stevens, with an assist from your humble newsletter author, has the story.

U.S. Sen. Pat Toomey, R-Pa., says it’s time for Congress to consider renaming military installations and other significant assets that bear the names of Confederate soldiers, your humble newsletter author also writes.

A new program in Philadelphia offers assistance to struggling renters and homeowners, our partners at the Philadelphia Tribune report.

On our Commentary Page, opinion regular Fletcher McClellan, with an assist from recent ETown College grad Caitlin Olivas, says the next president should emulate Richard Nixon’s approach to Native American affairs — which was more enlightened than you might think. And Carol Kuniholm of Fair Districts PA laces into lawmakers for dropping the ball on redistricting reform (which is a bit of a scorpion-on-the-back-of-a-frog scenario).

Philadelphia District Attorney Larry Krasner (Facebook photo)

Philly DA Larry Krasner
 will form a ‘truth, justice, and reconciliation commission’ to review the damage done by the criminal justice system, the Inquirer reports.
The Marcellus Shale Coalition has hit back at a grand jury report released by state Attorney General Josh Shapiro’s office last week. The Tribune-Review has the details.
Amid the pandemic, protests and uncertainty, PennLive’s John Baer wonders how you like your ‘fake news’ now.
Some Lehigh Valley officials tell the Morning Call they see coronavirus issues ‘brewing’ in some crowded public spaces.
Public reaction in NEPA is split on Gov. Tom Wolf’s mandatory mask order, the Citizens-Voice reports.

Here’s your #Pennsylvania Instagram of the Day:

A Philadelphia man awarded $6 million for a wrongful murder conviction feels a mixture of ‘gratitude and regret,’ WHYY-FM reports.
Penn State athletes have yet to test positive for COVID-19, WPSU-FM reports. explains how police reform protests have powered the cannabis legalization movement.
Philadelphia Mayor Jim Kenney has started a new PAC to lift progressive Dems, PoliticsPa reports.
NYMag’s Intelligencer looks at the racist dog whistles sounded by some U.S. Senate Republicans as they fight against D.C. statehood.

You Say It’s Your Birthday Dept.
Best wishes go out this morning to Bobby Maggio, in the office of Lt. Gov. John Fetterman, who celebrates today. Go ahead, have another cookie. We hear they’re a special recipe …

Heavy Rotation.
During lockdown, British rockers (and personal faves) Elbow recorded socially distanced versions of some of their best-loved tunes. Initially finding life as Instagram Lives, they’ve now been compiled into a CD called, punnily enough, “ElbowRooms.” Here’s an absolutely lovely reworking of “Magnificent, She Says,” from 2017’s “Little Fictions.”

Thursday’s Gratuitous Hockey Link.
From NHL.comhere’s a training camp preview for sentimental faves, the Winnipeg Jets.

And now you’re up to date.

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John L. Micek

A three-decade veteran of the news business, John L. Micek is the Pennsylvania Capital-Star's former Editor-in-Chief.