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Pa. politicians hide millions in campaign spending — legally; exhibit brings a stellar lineup of black artists to Philly | Morning Newsletter

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The most powerful lawmaker in the Pa. Senate, Joe Scarnati, dined at the St. Peter Stiftskulinarium restaurant in Austria in September 2016 and charged $246 to his campaign account. State law requires campaign money to be used for “influencing the outcome of an election,” but what qualifies is largely open to interpretation.
The most powerful lawmaker in the Pa. Senate, Joe Scarnati, dined at the St. Peter Stiftskulinarium restaurant in Austria in September 2016 and charged $246 to his campaign account. State law requires campaign money to be used for “influencing the outcome of an election,” but what qualifies is largely open to interpretation.Read moreAndre Schönherr / St. Peter Stiftskulinarium (custom credit)

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It turns out that Pennsylvania has some of the most lax campaign finance laws in the country. And some of the state’s lawmakers are taking advantage of that to hide the specifics of what they might be spending campaign funds on.

Also, an exhibition coming to Philly will bring a star-studded lineup of black artists to the Barnes Foundation.

And have you shaken off that Eagles loss to the Cowboys yet? Well, basketball season is right around the corner, with the NBA’s first games coming tonight and the 76ers getting things started against a historic rival tomorrow night. To make sure you get The Inquirer’s insight and analysis, sign up for “Off the Dribble,” our brand-new Sixers newsletter.

— Josh Rosenblat (@joshrosenblat,

Politicians in Pennsylvania operate under some of the country’s weakest campaign finance laws. It’s the only state without contribution limits and without an explicit ban on spending campaign cash for personal use, according to a nationwide survey. And there’s little enforcement of the rules that do exist.

Campaigns are supposed to keep vouchers of their spending for the previous three years. But there’s no requirement that they have to be itemized, and there’s no penalty if the candidates don’t keep them on file as required. A year-long investigation by the Caucus and Spotlight PA found that lawmakers across the state are shielding sometimes-lavish campaign spending by not reporting the details to the public.

A 2-year-old girl, Nikolette Rivera, was killed when bullets flew into her Kensington home. And in Hunting Park, an 11-month-old boy was shot four times when someone fired at the car he was in.

City officials held a somber news conference Monday, expressing sorrow regarding the incidents and asking the public to help police bring the offenders to justice. “You feel like you’re making progress in the city, and then this weekend happens,” Mayor Jim Kenney said. “You feel like you’re just losing ground.”

Opening Sunday at the Barnes, “30 Americans” is a traveling exhibition of artists drawn from the vast Rubell Family Collection in Miami. It first hit the road in 2008. “Only a decade ago, in a land far, far away,” culture reporter Stephan Salisbury writes.

But “30 Americans” comes at a time when the power of its artists — all of whom are African American — is as apparent as ever. They are some of contemporary art’s strongest voices. And they’re making the historically white world of galleries and museums pay serious attention.

What you need to know today

  1. Three former court-appointed guardians have been charged with embezzling more than $1 million from over 100 victims. They allegedly used a shell company and a church to launder the stolen money, Delaware County authorities said.

  2. Two Pennsylvania lawmakers have introduced a bill to ban abortion after a fetal heartbeat is detected. The move comes as a growing number of states with Republican-led legislatures are seeking to effectively ban abortion. Gov. Tom Wolf, a Democrat, has pledged to veto any such bill if it makes it to his desk.

  3. Philly is considering banning plastic bags. Other cities have done it. But how has it worked?

  4. Pennsylvania Attorney General Josh Shapiro and other state AGs announced a proposal to settle thousands of opioid lawsuits for $48 billion in cash and treatment medication from major pharma companies.

  5. A raging fire gutted a huge garage in West Philadelphia yesterday, burning down the roof and toppling brick walls as thick black smoke rose into the sky.

  6. A former Northampton Township supervisor and his longtime girlfriend admitted to spiking a coworker’s drinks before taking explicit pictures of her while she was passed out. They’re expected to be sentenced this year and will both have to register as sex offenders.

Through Your Eyes | #OurPhilly

Gotta imagine this guy is reading this newsletter on his commute, right? Great shot, @theliamgordon.

Tag your Instagram posts or tweets with #OurPhilly and we’ll pick our favorite each day to feature in this newsletter and give you a shout out!

That’s Interesting

  1. The 2019 World Series begins tonight with Bryce Harper’s former team taking on the Houston Astros. One of the most famous World Series ever took place 100 years ago. The 1919 Series featured the infamous “Black Sox," who took money to lose the championship. But did you know that a little-known Philadelphian and a meaningless Phillies game helped break open the scandal?

  2. After settling with Philadelphia for $1 each and a $200,000 pledge to educate city students on financial literacy, the two men arrested at a Center City Starbucks last year are seeing their vision get started.

  3. Even if he doesn’t hit a three-pointer, Ben Simmons still has plenty of game. And, as the Sixers open their season tomorrow with a new-look roster, you can get exclusive insight and analysis straight to your inbox by signing up for “Off the Dribble,” our Sixers newsletter.

  4. Is your business paying too much for office coffee?

  5. She was lost in South Philly, with one hand clinging to her dying husband and her other hand waving out of her car window, pleading for help. Her calls went ignored until one man stopped.

  6. After scoring (yes, it was a shot) the biggest goal in Philadelphia Union history, Marco Fabián is silencing his critics.


“It amazes me time and again that, despite this post-#MeToo moment, when gender equality is increasingly championed, Halloween remains a holiday when commercial costume makers emphasize traditional gender roles for children and the sexualization of women.” — Stuart Charmé, a religion professor and director of the graduate program in liberal studies at Rutgers-Camden, about how a “Sexy Mr. Rogers” costume reflects Halloween’s worst tendencies.

  1. Philadelphia pediatrician Daniel Taylor writes about a policy change that would help his patients most.

  2. Pennsylvania is still waking high schoolers up early, writes Lawrence W. Brown, a pediatric neurologist and sleep medicine physician at Children’s Hospital of Philadelphia.

What we’re reading

  1. WHYY and Billy Penn report on a change in how Philly property owners will pay their water bills.

  2. The BBC has an interesting story about a Scottish city that is trying to make living there actually good for your health. Could Philadelphia learn a few things?

  3. Iceland may be experiencing “overtourism." Vox explains what that can mean.

Your Daily Dose of | ‘Whizzy’

The famed cheesesteak joint Geno’s now has a mascot. Towering and wide-eyed, “Whizzy” has joined the whimsical and sometimes outrageous world of Philadelphia mascots. As for what Passyunk rival Pat’s might do, a mascot isn’t in the cards. “Maybe Gritty and Whizzy can hang out," Pat’s owner Frank Oliveri said, "they’re both kind of scary.”