GoFundMe has been used to raise more than $15 million this year in the Philadelphia area alone, benefiting gunshot victims, Benjamin Franklin's gravestone, an LGBTQ homeless shelter, Philly Jesus, and a New Jersey family that lost everything in a house fire.
But Steven Kaplan, a lawyer for the Philadelphia Democratic City Committee who has a $316,000 contract with the city's Department of Human Services, logged onto the social fund-raising site last week to create a page for a cause near and dear to his heart:
His own retirement in Florida.
"It has been very difficult flying back and forth to my condo every weekend for the past 10 years," wrote Kaplan, who is paid more than any city employee, including Mayor Kenney, to collect child-support payments for DHS. "I will keep you in my daily prayers for anything you can do to make this dream a reality."
Kaplan, who is pictured on GoFundMe sitting behind the wheel of a black Mercedes convertible, wrote that his city contract is being terminated soon, so he plans to move to his Williams Island condo. (DHS is ending the contract on March 31, 2017).
"I have just enough money budgeted until I am 85, but am now concerned since I've gotten in better health, I may live longer," he wrote. "I'm not sure my current savings, pension and Social Security will last my entire life if I live past 100."
Williams Island, a.k.a. "the Florida Riviera," is located in Aventura, in Miami-Dade County, and, according to its website, "offers an exclusive, private way of life to those accustomed to the finest of things at one of South Florida's most prestigious addresses." The "amenity-rich lifestyle" there includes access to a $5 million spa and fitness center, Grand Slam-inspired tennis courts, a marina and fine dining.
OK, in case you haven't caught on yet, Kaplan's GoFundMe campaign was not a serious attempt to raise money. At least that's what he told Clout when we got him on the horn Wednesday.
"It was just a joke," Kaplan said. "You're laughing. Ninety-eight percent of the people laughed, but, believe it or not, a couple people got upset."
Yeah, we heard about that. For instance, one person to whom Kaplan sent the link called it "obnoxious," encouraged him to donate the funds to a good cause and warned him that "a hooker is not a good cause ;)," Kaplan wrote on his Facebook page.
"Why would anybody give me money? I mean, come on," Kaplan said. "The last thing that I need is money."
Kaplan later revised the percentage of people who were aware of the joke, telling Clout that "99.9 percent got it."
The fund-raising goal on Kaplan's GoFundMe page is $175,500. As of Thursday, he had received $17.
"Hope this helps," wrote a woman who contributed $7. "You're right to be concerned. I think the full-time sunshine will raise your life expectancy substantially."
Last week, Clout asked Mayor Kenney to summarize his first year in office with a haiku. His staff impressed us with its submissions, but we thought Kenney's personal haiku lacked ... élan. To put it nicely. So we asked our readers, friends and colleagues to chip in with a haiku about 2016 in Kenney's Philadelphia. Here are some of our favorites:
So this must be what
Chris Christie's fat ass feels like
Exposed but alone
Clout asked Hizzoner
To put his first year in verse
But "Jim" rhymes with "grim"
- Brett Mandel, good-government gadfly
Street and Nutter spar
No portrait hangs on the wall
Jim won't squash the beef
- Monica Simmons, attorney, drummer, misanthrope
Soda tax? OK
Now you've gone too far
- Addam Schwartz, deputy metro editor
Mayor of Philly
Ho Ho Yo - One year down
And seven to go
- Redwoodser, reader, real name unknown
We're going John Baer-style here and using this year-end column to atone for all our sins and correct the factual errors of 2016. We found just one - which works out nicely because we're running out of space.
In the Nov. 26 Clout column, we pondered whether Emily Youcis, the white nationalist formerly known as Pistachio Girl, still might have a job at Citizens Bank Park in the spring. We wrote: "After all, the First Amendment applies to ballpark vendors, too."
Mentioning the First Amendment here was misleading, because freedom-of-speech protection does not extend to the private sector, as local know-it-all attorney Dan Urevick-Ackelsberg helpfully pointed out.
We totally knew that. Youcis later was fired.
And that'll do it for 2016. Happy New Year! It couldn't possibly be worse than this one. Right?
- Staff writers William Bender and Samantha Melamed and web and news app developer Michele Tranquilli contributed to this column.