The mystery attack had everything: international intrigue, crypto currency, cyber-terrorists, and — wait, what? — Pennsylvania politicians.
Last year, Democrats in the state Senate were victims of a computer ransomware attack that locked them out of their emails and other files. Hackers promised they'd return control in exchange for a five-figure ransom. Democrats refused.
Now, Clout has found out how much the siege cost taxpayers. Sort of.
State Sen. Vincent Hughes, a West Philly Democrat, said the state government (read: you and me) had to spend "six figures" to recover from the strike, which he said appeared to have "foreign" origins.
How much, exactly? Hughes referred that question to Senate Minority Leader Jay Costa, whose spokesperson declined to cite a specific number.
So, somewhere in the ballpark of $100,000 to $999,999. Some ballparks are bigger than others. (And some elected officials are more transparent than others.)
In this attack, the hackers asked for 28 bitcoin, a crypto-currency sum that would have been worth nearly $36,000 at the close of business on the first day of the attack.
"After consulting with law enforcement and cyber-security experts, we agreed to not give in to the demands of the cyber-terrorists," Democratic Senate caucus spokesperson Brittany Crampsie told us.
That's an expensive lesson. But Hughes noted an up side: Republicans helped the Democratic caucus rebuild its computer files, sharing information and support. A rare sighting of bipartisanship in Harrisburg.
"We lost damn near everything, and had to go through a very deliberative process of rebuilding our system," Hughes said. "The best nature of everybody kind of came out. I think they realized this could have easily happened to them."
Will Sheet Metal Workers union boss run against Kenney in 2019?
Gary Masino, head honcho of the local Sheet Metal Workers' union, is thinking about challenging Mayor Kenney in the 2019 mayoral race.
His son, Gary Jr., said he told union members at a meeting this week that he is "definitely considering" a campaign. Other rumored potential candidates — who run the gamut from serious contenders to mere flirts — include City Controller Alan Butkovitz, State Sen. Anthony Williams, and businessman Tom Knox.
Top officials in Local 19 have been floating the idea of a Masino ticket on social media. "MASINO FOR MAYOR," wrote business agent Tony Iannucci III on Facebook. "THE MAN OF THE WORKING PEOPLE."
But is Masino really interested in the job? Or does he have an ulterior motive?
Masino sat on the powerful Zoning Board of Adjustment, which holds sway over development projects, until Kenney took office in 2016. Kenney appointed Anthony Gallagher, an ally of Electricians union leader John "Johnny Doc" Dougherty, to replace him.
Masino and Dougherty have a history. Last year, Masino accused another union in the building trades of "raiding" his members' work. Sources said he was referring to the Electricians.
Does Masino want to leverage a rumored mayoral run into a ZBA comeback? Are these the first shots of a proxy war with the Electricians?
Masino Jr. said that his father resigned from the ZBA voluntarily, and that "there wasn't any bad blood between him and the mayor at the time, and there still really isn't." He also denied that there is any ill will between the Electricians and the Sheet Metal Workers, noting that they teamed up in a recent state House campaign.
He said his dad simply "thinks he can do a better job" than Kenney: "He's well-suited for the position … and he genuinely cares about the city. He's lived here his entire life."
The Mayor's Office, meanwhile, swiftly released a letter on Thursday demonstrating that Masino had been shown the door at the ZBA.
Kenney aide’s next move: Anti-Trump group
Jane Slusser, one of the two "power women" behind Kenney's 2015 campaign, left her job as the mayor's chief of staff last Friday. She said at the time she was going to work for an unnamed group charged with "mobilizing voters" during the midterm election campaigns.
This week, she gave Clout more details. Slusser is the new organizing director for a campaign founded by Tom Steyer, the billionaire Democratic megadonor who wants to impeach President Trump.
At "Need to Impeach," she's hoping to mobilize the 5.5 million people who've signed on to Steyer's petition to boot Trump from office.
"The focus is taking voters who don't normally turn out in midterm elections and getting them to turn out in really competitive races," she said.
Need to Impeach has already dipped its toes in the water on that front. Via email, text and ads, the organization urged petition-signers to vote in the 2018 special House election that Democrat Conor Lamb won in a district that Trump carried by almost 20 percentage points. Seventy-eight percent of those voters cast a ballot, according to lead strategist Kevin Mack.
"Our voters turned out at a rate 30 percent higher than Democrats in the district who did not sign our petition," said Mack.
Slusser was known as one of the Kenney administration's top progressive voices. Her legacy also includes reining in Kenney's jasmine-loving, Chris Christie-hating, no-holds-barred Twitter feed with fellow "power woman" Lauren Hitt. Hitt left the Kenney administration earlier this year and is now working for Cynthia Nixon's New York gubernatorial campaign.
So if Kenney starts tweeting again about "smokin'" 60 Minutes journalist Lesley Stahl, you know why.