U.S. Sen. Bernie Sanders’ bid for the presidency is over. Again. But the democratic socialist’s agenda marches on. Again.
This time, the remnants of Sanders’ campaign are waging a social media pressure war, slamming former Hahnemann University Hospital owner Joel Freedman for keeping the facility closed during the coronavirus pandemic. It’s a throwback to when Sanders joined nurses and health-care workers last summer to protest the hospital’s closure.
Text messages sent from the Bernie 2020 campaign to people in the Philadelphia area last weekend put Freedman, a millionaire private equity investor from Los Angeles, on blast for closing the hospital and balking at reopening it during the crisis without a substantial payment from the city.
“Now, as our city faces the coronavirus pandemic, we are in desperate need of hospital beds and treatment centers. Joel Freedman is putting thousands of lives on the line,” reads the text, which links to a petition launched by Councilmember Helen Gym calling on Freedman to reopen the hospital.
Elisa Wilkinson, a Sanders volunteer from Easton, Pa., was among the legion of tweeters.
“Even though I do not live in the community that Hahnemann served, Bernie asked us to fight for someone we don’t know,” Wilkinson told Clout.
Gym, who endorsed Sanders, said the petition had about 6,000 signatures before the texts and now has 16,000. She’s hoping to figure out a way to deliver it to Freedman on the West Coast. (His home in the Rittenhouse Square area has been defaced several times.)
The petition isn’t likely to have much impact. Mayor Jim Kenney has said the city is no longer in discussions with Freedman.
But, Gym said, as with any progressive movement, if you can’t win, you can still push.
Consider Sanders. An unlikely two-time national candidate from Vermont pulled the Democratic policy conversation to the left and will remain on primary ballots even though he has just endorsed the presumptive nominee, former Vice President Joe Biden.
“I understand the Kenney administration decision to pull out of talks with an individual who’s trying to shake down a city in a time of global worldwide pandemic,” Gym said. “I hope Joel Freedman gets the message that the world is watching, and we’re watching whatever it is he decides to do with the property.”
Freedman has become almost a cartoon villain in Philadelphia — despite it being unclear if the facility could even be used for the purposes being demanded. State officials have said Hahnemann — which was gutted and has no beds — would have needed extensive work just to be used as quarantine space. Freedman’s team has said he’s been unfairly maligned.
Not everyone’s on board with the shaming via petition. Some Sanders fans just used the effort to knock Biden. Others questioned whether campaign resources should be deployed this way. And Billy Ciancaglini, the Democrat turned Republican crushed by Kenney in last year’s mayoral race? He, keeping it classy, bragged on Facebook about having suggested to a Sanders texter that he should do something unnatural with his mother.
Jim Kenney’s oldest union ally furious over hazard pay
The mayor goes back a long way with District 1199C, the union that represents health-care workers at city detention centers. Kenney was a member while working a hospital front desk job in high school and college. The union endorsed his 2015 bid for mayor before he even entered the race.
Chris Woods, 1199C’s new president, remembers all that. Woods, in a tele-town hall meeting Tuesday with members, Gym, and two state legislators, called out Kenney for not paying the union members the time-and-a-half hazard pay city unions received for two weeks when they were deemed essential workers for the coronavirus pandemic.
“We’ve been there on the front lines for people when it was their time and their need,” Woods said. “So for people to not stand up for us is a problem and is something we will never forget.”
The union estimates it would cost the city about $750,000 to give the union’s 500 impacted workers hazard pay.
A spokesperson for Kenney said the union should look to Corizon Health, the city contractor at detention centers, for the money.
Bob Brady’s lobbying firm lands Comcast, Blue Cross
Brady, chairman of Philadelphia’s Democratic Party, filed his registration Friday as a lobbyist for Comcast in the U.S. House and Senate, according to Politico. He told Clout on Tuesday that he had also landed the Blue Cross account.
Brady spent 20 years in the House before announcing in 2018 that he would not seek another term. Federal regulations require a one-year “cooling off” period for departing members of Congress before they can start lobbying their former colleagues.
Brady said he expects to advocate for Comcast on legislation impacting its business, as directed by the company’s senior executive vice president, David L. Cohen.
“Whatever David wants,” Brady answered when asked what he expected to be doing.
Brady was known in Washington as the “mayor of Capitol Hill,” thanks to his time as chairman of the House Administration Committee. He still has close relationships with members of Congress, including House Speaker Nancy Pelosi.
Brady picked up his first client, Rivers Casino Philadelphia, last year, thanks in part to his friendship with attorney Richard Sprague, a minority owner in the business. His firm — Robert A. Brady Consulting LLC — lists Sprague’s law firm as its address on federal and state forms.
Brady said he is negotiating to pick up more clients.
“These other guys do it. Why not me?” he said. “I’ve got enough energy to take care of what I got to do. If I get more, maybe I’ll hire some more people.”