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Photos: Alan Nunez/ Al DÍA News.
The GOP billionaire was denounced at City Hall. Photos: Alan Nunez/ Al DÍA News.

Helen Gym and co. denounce election interference from GOP billionaire Jeffrey Yass during City Hall rally

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“If you're standing with Jeffrey Yass, that speaks volumes about what you believe the city of Philadelphia deserves right now and what its people need right now,” said Philadelphia Mayoral candidate Helen Gym during a rally against Republican billionaire Jeffrey Yass on Monday, May 8.

The Democratic candidate roared her criticisms earlier this afternoon, alongside fellow progressives that included City Council candidates, State Representatives, and community leaders.

The large collective of the city’s progressives openly denounced Yass’ recent attempts to interfere with the Mayor’s race. 

Gym, who rallied against the use of outside influences to sway the outcome of a race, has received national endorsements from several notably non-Philadelphians and non-Pennsylvanians, including Hollywood actor Mark Ruffalo, U.S. Senator Bernie Sanders, Jane Fonda’s Climate PAC, and Latina Congresswoman Alexandria Ocasio Cortez. 

“I want to say what it means to be standing here united with our wonderful elected officials with community organizations on the ground in the city of Philadelphia fighting the likes of Jeffery Yass and the morally bankrupt policies that he tries to sell nationally, as well as here in the city,” she said.  

“He may have the money, but we've got the people,” Gym added. 

A few of the elected officials and candidates who have been targeted by the conservative billionaire — Rep. Elizabeth Fiedler (184th District); Rep. Rick Krajewski (188th District); Rep. Chris Rabb (200th District) — spoke out on the man reportedly behind the hate-filled and aggressive mailers that came their way earlier this month. They displayed images of an individual holding a gun next to the photos of the three state representatives. 

However, for the state representatives, and Gym herself, it’s a sign of fear on behalf of the billionaire and his allies looking to sway not just this Mayor’s race, but the city’s upcoming City Council race as well. 

Campaign finance reports back in April revealed that the Yass-funded Commonwealth Children’s Choice Fund contributed $400,000 to Philly for Growth, an independent-expenditure group financed by development interests. 

“What they're really afraid of is all of us,” Gym said. 

Photo: Alan Nunez/ Al Dia News

Among the other speakers were Sergio Hyland of the Working Families Party, Jerry Jordan, President of the Philadelphia Federation of Teachers, Councilmember Jamie Gauthier (District 3), and at-Large City Council candidate Amanda McIllmurray. 

“I believe that voters will reject the political games that people who don't live here are trying to play with our city's future,” said Fiedler. 

“I'm actually here to thank Jeffrey Yass. Not just because he helped galvanize voters in my district last year, and helped expand the support behind my colleagues here,” said Rabb. 

“But because he underestimated us, and I love being underestimated. He's the richest man, whatever. There's another important distinction, he's actually bankrupt … morally.”

Yass, the co-founder and managing director of the Philadelphia-based Susquehanna International Group (SIG), who resides outside of the city, was discovered through campaign finance reports last Friday, to have personally funded $750,000 worth of false advertisements that attacked Gym. 

The ads alleged unethical accusations during her time on City Council, when she voted against a bill in 2019 that looked to regulate pharmaceutical sales representatives while her husband worked in the industry.

The bill would have banned sales representatives from giving gifts to physicians as well as require them to register with the city’s Health Department. 

It’s an attack that has been used by several of her critics thrughout the campaign, but once again, came to be because of a $200,000 TV ad campaign that began last Thursday. 

The ads were paid for by the political group called the Coalition for Safety and Equitable Growth, the committee to which Yass gave the $750,000 and that Jabari Jones, a small-business advocate and former City Council candidate in 2023, chairs. 

“I think today was a very important day for those who are genuinely concerned about democracy both in the abstract, as well as in the acute. I'm not one who's big on disparaging people individually, but what his money, his outsize money means and how it shows up across the world and locally is a problem for democracy,” said Nicholas O’Rourke, an at-Large City Council candidate from the Working Families Party in 2023.

Gym also dropped a press release claiming supporters of fellow candidates former City Controller Rebecca Rhynhart and former Councilmember Cherelle Parker joined Yass to fund attack advertisements against Gym. 

This includes a $3,100 donation into the PAC from former Philly Mayor Michael A. Nutter who endorsed Rhynhart for mayor in March. Nutter also got into a live television spat during one of their forums. 

Other large donors included Josh Kopelman, venture capitalist and Chairman of the Philadelphia Inquirer's Board of Directors, who poured $50,000 into the super PAC and tweeted Friday that he has given campaign money to many political candidates and PACs this year, including the Coalition for Safety and Equitable Growth.

“We are not going back to chaotic school closings. We are not going back to stop and frisk. And no one, not Michael Nutter, venture capitalist Josh Kopelman and its efforts to prop up these right wing interests in the Philadelphia Inquirer, not the ultra rich developers who want to run this city,” said Gym. “This is not their time.”

Kopleman, she went on to say “refused to disclose even as front page stories were being written about the content of the ads that he was funding.” 

“I do think anytime the institutions of our society are also corrupted by dollars, outsize money influences not just the votes themselves, but who is shaping the papers, the main source of information. Certainly the Philadelphia Inquirer has been a staple paper. That kind of money should be a cause for concern for anyone,” O’Rourke offered AL DÍA about Kopelman’s contribution. 

A registered libertarian and the state’s richest man, Yass has donated millions to PACs that have boosted some Democrats in favor of expanding charter schools in the state in the past. 

It’s another facet that Gym, a former school teacher, sees as a danger as the city struggles to keep school buildings open and students in the classroom. 

“Our communities have seen what happens when we cut taxes for the ultra rich. We close down our public schools, and wait around for that wealth to supposedly trickle down, when that is absolutely not happening,” Gym said. “Those with the most get richer and richer, and Philadelphia communities have to deal with less and less. We are not going to deal with leaders who bring us back to the failed status quo policies that have harmed our communities.”

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