This week, the Pennsylvania House and Senate will reconvene for Fall session. As such, we know the Commonwealth Foundation will be back lobbying, despite their non-profit status, on behalf of their billionaire donors. They will continue their efforts to undermine workers through ALEC-drafted legislation, defund public education, and find ways to profit at the expense of taxpayers. If the Spring budget cycle was any indication though, the Commonwealth Foundation’s agenda will continue failing.
It’s worth recalling what PA Spotlight exposed during the spring. Economists connected to the Commonwealth Foundation testified on the ongoing debate to raise the minimum wage in Pennsylvania, something that has not been done in over 10 years. They admitted, as Commonwealth Foundation lobbyist Nathan Benefield has in the past, they favored abolishing the minimum wage. They also stated their belief that racists win when the minimum wage is raised.
This wasn’t the only time Commonwealth Foundation connected allies hurt their own cause while testifying. Noted white-supremacist Rep. Daryl Metcalfe invited Gregory Wrightstone, a Koch-funded climate denier, to testify. Mr. Wrightstone weirdly touted sales of his self-published book under questioning Rep. Leanne Kreuger about these financial connections. The book was edited by a senior fellow from the Commonwealth Foundation.
And finally, at the height of the debate around the expansion of a tax giveaway for corporations at the expense of public schools, PA Spotlight exposed the Commonwealth Kids LLC, a pass-through entity for their donors to maximize their profits. Since its registration as an LLC, the Commonwealth Kids have given almost $3 million in write-offs to undisclosed entities or individuals. Not only are the Commonwealth Foundation advocating for policies that intentionally defund public schools, they are now also offering their donors a way to profit on the backs of children while skimming their own administrative fees off the top. All this while teachers fight to fund school facilities fairly across Pennsylvania.
How much did the Commonwealth Foundation’s failures in Harrisburg cost its billionaire funders? For the aforementioned Mr. Benefield, who believes in free labor, the going rate for his lobbying is $102,688. For Commonwealth Foundation CEO Charles Mitchell, you’ll have to part with nearly a quarter million dollars, with his salary at $213,136.
Most egregiously though, former Commonwealth Foundation CEO and current Commonwealth Partners Chamber of Entrepreneurs CEO Matt Brouillette is paid nearly half a million dollars to lobby against the minimum wage. According to the latest publicly available documents, the Commonwealth Foundation paid Matthew Brouillette $121,471 as director and president through June 2016 (this filing was to cover October 2016 through September 2017). In addition, Commonwealth Partners paid Brouillette $333,792.
It would take a Pennsylvania worker making $7.25 over 30 years to make what Mr. Brouillette makes in one year. While Mr. Brouillette fights against giving the poorest Pennsylvanians a higher minimum wage, he’s gladly taken his own. All of these numbers come from IRS forms from 2017. It is likely that his total salary has increased since then. From 2015 to 2016, Mr. Brouillette received nearly a 50% raise despite little to show for all this compensation. He’s done all of this while doling out donations to right-wing politicians’ campaigns as a board member of the Commonwealth Leaders Fund. The same politicians who are now refusing to raise the minimum wage.
Welcome back, Harrisburg, where you can get rich off lobbying to keep people poor!