Whenever good government movements grab a foothold inside the state capitol and Pennsylvania politics, the Commonwealth Foundation is always ready to co-opt these campaigns for positive press. Once it becomes at a crossroads with the organization’s political agenda, they abandon it exposing them for the extremist right-wing front group they are.
In the previous legislative session, we pointed out the fact the Commonwealth Foundation threw their support behind Fair Districts’ campaign to end gerrymandering but backed out when questioned by Republican leadership. In this legislative session, they joined a bi-partisan criminal justice coalition that pushed for criminal justice reforms, but then attacked key allies in the movement through editorials and their newly sponsored website Broad and Liberty.
At the beginning of 2019, the Commonwealth Foundation and other Koch-funded organizations like Americans for Prosperity worked to join coalitions to support policies like the Justice Reinvestment Initiative (JRI2), the clean slate package, and meaningful probation reform. Nearly a year later, the Commonwealth Foundation sang a different tune when Jennifer Stefano, Vice President of the Commonwealth Foundation, published an editorial attacking Philadelphia District Attorney Larry Krasner over his criticisms of the changes made to the probation reform bill. Essentially this bill was gutted in committee and these changes forced coalition members like the ACLU of PA to drop their support for House Bill 1555.
During the fall, a new Commonwealth Foundation-connected media outfit popped up and started publishing dog whistle content criticizing District Attorney Krasner with language stating that he favored criminals. This type of dog-whistle and abhorrent language is exactly the type of stigma restorative justice advocates fight against. In another article on Broad and Liberty, they claimed: “Larry Krasner’s criminal-justice reform experiment sends chills down the spines of most area voters as they watch a city seized by horrific violence and a prosecutor determined to reduce the safety of residents.”
It’s no surprise the Commonwealth Foundation has been talking out both sides of its mouth in criminal justice spaces. Mr. Krasner has been a leading advocate and important validator in efforts to reduce prison populations, end cash bail, and truly build restorative justice in communities. Many of the organizations part of the same coalition as the Commonwealth Foundation that supported these bills are allies of Mr. Krasner who has become an important voice nationally. It was always apparent that the Commonwealth Foundation were using their outreach to criminal justice advocates as a cover to carry out their political agenda. Once again, their bad faith knows no ends.