A GROUP of Philly corporate executives is gearing up to recruit and support pro-business candidates in the May 19 primary elections for City Council.
City Hall was abuzz yesterday with talk that Joe and Rob Zuritsky, the father and son who run Parkway Corp., are behind the new political venture.
Marc Brownstein, a spokesman for the Zuritskys, said it is "premature" to discuss details.
The group hopes to "improve the business climate so we can retain and attract jobs," he said.
The group's emergence was first reported yesterday by the Philadelphia Business Journal.
Clout hears the group will be a political-action committee making what are known as "independent expenditures" for at-large Council races. That means it can spend well beyond the city's campaign-finance limits as long as it does not coordinate efforts with any candidate's campaign.
Seven of Council's 17 members run at-large, representing the whole city, while the other 10 represent specific districts. Two of the seven at-large seats are set aside by city law for the minority political party, the Republicans in Philadelphia for decades.
"Lots of business leaders who care deeply about Philadelphia see a window of opportunity for the city, with millennials staying here after college and empty-nesters moving back to the city," Brownstein said. "What we have to do is attract business."
U.S. Rep. Bob Brady, the city's Democratic Party chairman, said he was "a little surprised" that Joe Zuritsky didn't consult him about his political plans.
"He's been to see me many times for help," Brady said. "I've always helped him."
Brady, as chairman, tries to protect incumbent candidates.
"I've always stuck with incumbents," Brady said before adding, "We might make some changes. Who knows?"
There is some precedent for a pro-business group forming to influence a Philadelphia election.
"The Rubin Group," named for developer Ron Rubin, came together, intent on raising $1 million to help influence the 1991 race for mayor. Instead, it made five-figure contributions to two Democrats and two Republicans.
One of the Democrats was Ed Rendell, who won the election, served two terms and then became governor of Pennsylvania.
The deal five weeks ago for state Supreme Court Justice Seamus McCaffery to resign from the bench and have misconduct charges against him dropped by the Judicial Conduct Board included a verbal cease-fire agreement for McCaffery and Chief Justice Ron Castille.
Someone didn't get the memo.
McCaffery and Castille are abiding, as far as we know, by the "non-disparagement" agreement that ended their long and public feud.
But someone registered the website SeamusMcCaffery.com 12 days after his resignation.
The website, privately registered through a third-party company, is replete with praise for McCaffery and scorn for Castille.
It claims McCaffery was "railroaded out of office by Pennsylvania's elite justices" and harassed due to Castille's "vendetta."
A source close to McCaffery said he didn't register the website or authorize the content.
The website says, "We the people owe it to Judge McCaffery to make things right and get him back where he belongs."
McCaffery's deal also said he will never become a judge again.
"Whoever it is obviously doesn't know what they're talking about," Castille said. "That's never going to happen, whoever 'we the people' are."
Many in the state's political class will travel to New York City next weekend for the 116th annual Pennsylvania Society.
Staying home? Then Clout recommends the second annual Pattison-Leader Ball at the Hyatt at the Bellevue on Dec. 13.
Named for the state's two youngest governors, the group staging the ball says it aims to "foster deeper civic engagement among millennials by building the bridge from voting to participating in the political process."
Tickets are $65. For details: PattisonLeader.com.
On Twitter: @ChrisBrennanDN