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Commonwealth Partners Pledge Millions to Support Pro School Choice Candidates

Earlier this summer, Gov. Josh Shapiro vetoed a program designed to help kids in the lowest-performing schools with state funds for tuition so they could attend better ones.

Shapiro had campaigned on school choice and hammered out an agreement with the Republican-majority state Senate for the $100,000 Pennsylvania Award for Student Success (PASS) program. But the Democrat-controlled House opposed it, and Shapiro promised them he would use his line-item veto to strike it from the state budget.

Monday, Commonwealth Partners President and CEO Matt Brouillette announced his organization is now fielding a more than $10 million war chest to support candidates for the Pennsylvania House and Senate in 2024 who back school choice.

“Our supporters applaud the Pennsylvania Senate for making school choice a priority in the state budget,” said Brouillette. “Unfortunately, Pennsylvania House Democrats and many Pennsylvania Senate Democrats have chosen to side with government unions over the interests of students and families. We look forward to electing lawmakers in 2024 who will put students’ interests above special interests. And that work has already begun.”

Brouillette said Shapiro received more than $5.5 million from government unions during the 2021-22 election cycle. Now unions have inked new contracts negotiated behind closed doors with the Shapiro administration. They include large pay raises and are projected to cost taxpayers $3.2 billion over the next four years.

Brouillette also called out House Leader Matthew Bradford (D-Worcester), saying he had blocked the “schoolhouse door for children deserving a better education” and received union support.

“Gov. Shapiro caved to his union campaign donors once by vetoing educational opportunity and then rewarded them with billions of dollars in new taxpayer-funded contracts,” Brouillette said. “We know we’re up against a special interest group that ultimately doesn’t care about kids. That’s why our supporters are investing significant resources to free children from unions’ failing schools.”

DVJournal asked Brouillette whether he was concerned that Shapiro would veto another school choice plan.

“Gov. Shapiro has repeatedly stated his support for school choice. He knows that rescuing kids from failing schools is the right thing to do, but union-owned lawmakers who control the House have thwarted him so far. We plan to remove that barrier so Shapiro will have no roadblock to keeping his word,” he said.

Asked about possible court challenges to voucher programs, Brouillette said, “School choice programs have been challenged many times. And time and again, courts all the way up to the U.S. Supreme Court have upheld them. Those who challenge them are on the wrong side of history and the wrong side of kids.”

On the question of whether having former President Donald Trump on the top of the ticket would hurt GOP efforts to pass legislation on state issues like school choice, Brouillette noted the election is more than a year away.

“I’ve said before that to win elections; the GOP needs to move beyond Trump and Trump-endorsed candidates. A lot can happen between now, and the presidential primaries, and my hope is that Republicans focus on nominating a candidate who not only fights for freedom but can also win in November.”

Gina Pope, a spokeswoman for Commonwealth Partners, said the sources of the funds will be revealed when it files the required campaign finance forms. Commonwealth Partners Chamber of Entrepreneurs is a free-market advocacy organization.

Brouillette said parents and students can’t afford to wait for a change of heart in Harrisburg. “As our elected officials have not had a change of heart, it’s clear Pennsylvanians need a change in leadership. Our kids need an educational lifeline now. They can’t wait. If you stand with children, we will stand with you. But if you keep blocking the schoolhouse door, know that we plan to do everything we can to help children escape the unions’ worst schools in Pennsylvania.”

Neither Bradford nor Shapiro responded to requests for comment.

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Commonwealth Partners to Endorse McSwain for Governor

The influential Commonwealth Partners Chamber of Entrepreneurs is endorsing Bill McSwain in the Republican primary for governor, sources tell Delaware Valley Journal.

McSwain, former U.S. Attorney for southeastern Pennsylvania, is one of 15 candidates in the hotly-contested primary.

“I am proud and honored to have the endorsement of Commonwealth Partners Chamber of Entrepreneurs, whose dedication to improving our business climate, expanding educational opportunity, and unleashing Pennsylvania’s energy potential is unmatched,” said McSwain. “Together, we will work toward victory in November and a freer, safer, more prosperous Pennsylvania for years to come.”

McSwain, 52, a Yale graduate who served in the Marine Corps and then earned his law degree from Harvard, was appointed U.S. Attorney by former President Donald Trump.

Commonwealth Partners is a free-market advocacy group with a statewide reputation on the political right. In the 2021 election, its political action committee, Commonwealth Leaders PAC, backed Kevin Brobson for the state Supreme Court, donating $2 million. Brobson won that seat. It also backed both Megan Sullivan for Superior Court and Stacy Wallace for Commonwealth Court, both winning candidates. However, Drew Compton, its second pick for Commonwealth Court, lost.

“We always knew Commonwealth would be a big player in the election for governor, and this kind of move is expected,” said Paul Martino, a Bucks County venture capitalist, who is a GOP donor. He said Commonwealth’s CEO Matt Brouillette “has always said he had an affinity for Bill, so I am not surprised. This certainly vaults Bill into the top tier of candidates.”

As U.S. Attorney, McSwain prosecuted rioters who torched police cars and argued and won the Philadelphia heroin injection site case, preventing such sites from invading Pennsylvania neighborhoods.

The West Chester native also prosecuted corrupt politicians and fought against the Sanctuary City doctrine by prosecuting illegal aliens who committed crimes. He has been a strong proponent of law and order on the campaign trail and a frequent critic of progressive Philadelphia District Attorney Larry Krasner as the crime and murder rates have spiked in that city.

While in private practice, McSwain fought to keep the historic plaque of the 10 Commandments on the Chester County Courthouse that was presented to the county as a gift more than 100 years ago. He also won a case for the Boy Scouts of America when Philadelphia tried to evict the group.

Pennsylvania GOP strategist Charlie O’Neill said, “Commonwealth Partners has been an important voice over the past seven years. They represent conservative leaders and business leaders, and their support sends a message that conservatives can trust McSwain.”

And while their support is valuable, O’Neill said “This certainly doesn’t mean the primary race is over. It’s a strong field.”

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