An uptick in recent chatter about the University of Pennsylvania and presidential politics had Clout wondering this week: Why does President Donald Trump talk so much about his alma mater when Penn has so little to say about him?

Penn, as The Inquirer reported, spent more than $900,000 from 2017 to early 2019 to have former Vice President Joe Biden play the big man on campus. In return, Biden made about a dozen public appearances as the first Benjamin Franklin Presidential Practice professor before going on leave in April to run for president.

Trump frequently touts his 1968 bachelor’s degree from Penn’s Wharton School, which he once called “the hardest school to get into” and “like, super genius stuff.”

The Penn admissions officer who interviewed Trump in 1966 — a close friend of the future president’s older brother — told the Washington Post last week that more than half the Wharton applicants then were accepted and transfer students like Trump had an even better chance of admission.

“Certainly not a super genius” is how James Nolan summed up his memory of Trump’s interview.

Trump is Penn’s first graduate to become president. Still, he is persona non grata on campus.

(President William Henry Harrison spent one semester studying medicine at Penn in 1791 before dropping out. He developed pneumonia after his inauguration in 1841 and died on his 32nd day as president.)

Trump’s camp has noticed the Penn snub.

A campaign spokesperson offered this Thursday: "While Joe Biden took more than $900,000 from the University of Pennsylvania, no one can really explain what he did to earn the money. President Trump is a proud graduate of the school along with three of his children, and unlike Biden, the Trump family has given back to Penn as donors.”

Penn, true to form, did not respond to Clout’s requests for comment about Trump.

Trump has been a hard sell at Penn since his campaign. The Daily Pennsylvanian reported two months before the 2016 election that 60 percent of the Penn College Republicans said they did not support Trump.

Chris Schiller, a rising sophomore and current political director for the Penn College Republicans, estimates that about 75 percent of the club now backs Trump.

The Pennsylvania Gazette, Penn’s alumni magazine, did not put Trump on its cover during his campaign or after his victory. Editor John Prendergast wrote this in the January-February 2017 issue: “Winning the U.S. presidency may be the only alumni achievement capable of both delighting and bitterly disappointing large segments of the alumni community.”

City Councilman Al Taubenberger (left) at the National Constitution Center in Philadelphia last month. Councilman David Oh (right) speaks during a hearing in City Hall in February.
TIM TAI-JESSICA GRIFFIN / Staff Photographers
City Councilman Al Taubenberger (left) at the National Constitution Center in Philadelphia last month. Councilman David Oh (right) speaks during a hearing in City Hall in February.

Philly GOP Council at-large race turns chippy

The 2019 primary election is in the past and, in a town where Democrats hold dominance, the results of the Nov. 5 general election are easy to predict in all but a few races.

Two City Council at-large seats, set aside in the City Charter for candidates who don’t belong to the ruling political party, are up for grabs. They have traditionally been held by Republicans but a crop of independent candidates are expected to seek them as well.

Incumbents Al Taubenberger and David Oh, taking flak from Republicans, aren’t seen as locks for reelection.

Taubenberger has been shadowed by a person wearing a dog costume, a reference to Taubenberger’s defense of former Parking Authority Executive Director Vince Fenerty, who resigned after The Inquirer reported he sexually harassed employees. Taubenberger said Fenerty’s behavior was nothing more than “a high school puppy love situation.”

“It was a poor choice of words, one which I have regretted, and it has dogged me the entire time of the campaign,” Taubenberger told Clout on Thursday. “Pun intended.”

Oh, who has been critical of the GOP-patronage laden PPA, has been targeted by former Pennsylvania House Speaker John M. Perzel. An education nonprofit criticized Oh just before the primary for his history of misleading comments about his military service, which Clout exposed in 2011.

And screengrabs are floating around about another Republican candidate, Bill Heeney, reviving talk of his past habit of posting controversial memes on Facebook.

Heeney, who has taken his Facebook profile private, said “politics is a dirty business.”

“I’m a big boy and I can handle it,” Heeney said in a statement. “What I can’t handle, and refuse to tolerate, is being falsely defined by dirty tricks.”

Valentino "Val" DiGiorgio left the law firm Stradley Ronon, not long after he resigned as chairman of the Pennsylvania Republican Party.
ED HILLE / Staff Photographer
Valentino "Val" DiGiorgio left the law firm Stradley Ronon, not long after he resigned as chairman of the Pennsylvania Republican Party.

DiGiorgio out at Stradley Ronon after 20 years

Valentino DiGiorgio III, the former chairman of the Pennsylvania Republican Party, is out at Stradley Ronon after 20 years. We’d tell you why if we could, but nobody at the law firm — including chairman Bill Sasso — responded to requests for comment.

DiGiorgio resigned as GOP chairman on June 25, shortly after The Inquirer reported claims from a former Philadelphia City Council candidate who accused him of sexual harassment. (In a statement last month, DiGiorgio strenuously denied those allegations but has since been unreachable for comment.)

A Stradley spokesperson told the Legal Intelligencer later that day that “while unfortunate, this matter has nothing to do with either the firm or its clients.” DiGiorgio, who had been cochairman of the firm’s banking and public finance units, looked safe in his day job.

The Inquirer last week published another allegation of sexual harassment leveled against DiGiorgio as Republican leaders wrangled to replace him as chairman. Rumors swiftly spread that DiGiorgio was gone from Stradley. His profile was deleted from Stradley’s website and emails sent to his firm address bounced back with a notification that he no longer works there.