Clout delivers a good news/bad news scenario today.
The good news: Former State Rep. Movita Johnson-Harrell’s life story will be performed as a play next month at the Rotunda, a theater space in University City.
The bad news: She won’t get to see it, because she is in jail. Johnson-Harrell reported last week to the Riverside Correctional Facility to serve at least three months of a 11½- to 23-month sentence after pleading guilty last month to theft, tampering with public records, and perjury.
From Tragedies to Triumphs: The Movita Johnson-Harrell Story takes the stage for two back-to-back performances on Friday, March 13.
Johnson-Harrell is a big fan of the production, promoting it on her Facebook page up until the day before she reported to jail. She emphasized the $20 tickets were to raise money for gun-violence prevention, a personal cause since her son was murdered in 2011.
“They are not looking to make money,” Johnson-Harrell said of the play’s producers on Facebook on Feb. 5. “They want to bring awareness and get people engaged.”
“People that know me know that contrary to the rhetoric I am a giver not a taker,” said the former legislator from West Philly’s 190th District. “I am asking everyone that knows me to buy a ticket for this play.”
A grand jury impaneled by the Pennsylvania Attorney General’s Office accused Johnson-Harrell of stealing more than $500,000 from a nonprofit she founded, spending the money on vacations, designer clothes, fur coats and personal bills.
If this were a musical, the lead song would be, “Don’t Cry for Me, West Philadelphia.”
Producer Brian King said the play has been in the works for more than two years and he had no idea Johnson-Harrell was in legal jeopardy until just before the charges were announced.
“What I know of Movita, I think she should still be honored,” he said. “I didn’t give it a second thought. I told her it would still go on.”
King, who hired writer Dorothy Harris to produce the script, confirmed that the play’s proceeds will go to a gun violence prevention program, though he does not currently have an arrangement for that with any specific program.
“I just know every dollar is going to gun violence,” he said.
Harris said she was unfamiliar with Johnson-Harrell’s work before being hired to write the play but joined her in the meeting with the cast.
“They were excited to meet her,” Harris said. “She told them a little bit about her story and how she plans to be an activist when she gets out.”
Pollster: How do you feel about magazines for ‘hipster Marxists’?
We told you former South Philly ward leader Nikil Saval’s Democratic primary challenge to State Sen. Larry Farnese would be a clash between new Philadelphia and old Philadelphia.
Then came the pollsters, calling last week from Farnese’s camp, pushing and testing negative information about Saval. For instance, did voters know Saval “founded a magazine for hipster Marxists?"
Two Saval supporters fielded the calls and gave Clout the download. The poll started in a traditional manner, asking about political knowledge and voting history. But then it swerved, asking if voters knew that Saval, a magazine writer, had started a “dark money group."
That’s an apparent reference to Reclaim Philadelphia, the group he co-founded with fellow 2016 Bernie Sanders staffers. Reclaim has a nonprofit arm that posts financial information online and a political action committee that discloses donors and how the money is spent.
The pollster also suggested Saval is fomenting tension among Democrats at a time when they should be unifying to defeat President Donald Trump’s bid for a second term.
Saval, who sees this as a “push poll" — a negative messaging effort masquerading as an opinion survey — notes that he helped increase Democratic voter turnout during his time as the 2nd Ward leader.
Dan Siegel, a political consultant for Farnese, said the campaign has no interest in or need for push polls.
“It’s not useful for us,” he said. “If there is polling in the field, it is for actionable data, not to move numbers in the polling.”
The curious case of that push poll about U.S. Rep. Brendan Boyle
Speaking of polls, a Clout fan alerted us to a push poll that he thought came from the Democratic primary campaign of Salem Snow, who is challenging U.S. Rep. Brendan Boyle’s bid for a fourth term in Philadelphia.
The poll, our tipster said, was a robo-call from TPC Research, using a phone number with a Pittsburgh area code. The poll knocked Boyle for taking contributions from special interests and touted Snow as the “true progressive” in the race.
That matches Snow’s campaign messaging. But Snow, via Twitter messages, said he had nothing to do with the poll.
“We haven’t heard of this company until your inquiry,” said Snow, who declined a formal interview.
Snow found time to tweet last week about media outlets seeking to report on him. A little history there: He was registered to vote in Philadelphia under a former name from March 2016 to October 2019, then legally changed his name to Salem Snow last September and entered the race in November.
Anthony Bellmon, a Boyle campaign spokesman, called his boss “a tireless worker who has the support of every major progressive organization” and said he "looks forward to running for re-election on his strong record.”