Most of the 39 letters submitted to a federal judge last week in support of political consultant Ken Smukler struck the same notes: lifelong friend, devoted dad, always turning up to help in a time of need.
Then came Shanin Specter, a trial lawyer, law professor, and son of the late U.S. Sen. Arlen Specter.
“Ken has worked for some fine people and for some who have lesser reputations,” Specter wrote to U.S. District Judge Jan E. DuBois, who was about to sentence Smukler to 18 months in prison.
He added that Smukler was drawn to political fights, “But by working with lesser reputed figures, Ken exposed himself to the legal vagaries and bad habits of their worlds.”
Specter’s dad, by the way, was once Philadelphia’s district attorney. Specter went on to decry “local pols deep in the bowels of the sometimes gritty world of Philadelphia politics" and note that the “real beneficiaries of Ken’s efforts were not charged.”
That’s a nod to former U.S. Rep. Bob Brady, chairman of the Democratic City Committee, and former U.S. Rep. Marjorie Margolies. Smukler was swept up in federal probes into campaign spending for both, convicted for a $90,000 payoff to get Brady’s 2012 primary challenger to drop out of that race and for violating federal campaign laws for how contributions were raised and spent in Margolies’ failed 2014 bid to return to Congress.
Brady, in a four-page letter, also mentioned corruption. “I have written many letters like this for friends of mine who have found themselves in the circumstances Kenny now finds himself in,” he wrote.
Brady cited Smukler as instrumental in helping to save Philadelphia institutions like the Mummers Parade and putting the city on the national stage, pushing for a 2008 presidential debate and the 2016 Democratic National Convention to be held here.
Margolies, who was granted immunity to testify against Smukler, apparently didn’t write a letter.
DuBois initially sealed the letters at the request of Smukler’s defense team but made them public after an attorney for The Inquirer asked for them.
Michael Smerconish, a local attorney who now hosts shows on satellite radio and CNN, noted Smukler’s “big heart and love of community.”
“I believe society would be enhanced by having him outside the system,” Smerconish wrote. “Quite frankly, the humiliation of his trial and guilty verdict has been punishment enough.”
The primary battle between Mayor Jim Kenney and City Councilman Allan Domb, long rumored in City Hall, never materialized. But the rancor persists.
Kenney’s campaign this week released his endorsements for City Council at-large Democrats. He backed Isaiah Thomas and Katherine Gilmore Richardson, along with incumbents Helen Gym and Derek Green.
For the fifth at-large seat, historically held by a Democrat and currently occupied by Domb, Kenney endorsed no one.
City Hall sources have long said Kenney is wary of Domb’s ambitions, suspecting a primary challenge was in the works after the two split on the councilman’s push to collect delinquent property taxes. Domb, a real-estate investor, has deep pockets and a willingness to spend big on his own campaigns.
Kenney told Clout that Gym and Green have always been with him on the issues, and Thomas and Gilmore Richardson are “really solid candidates.” But given so many challengers, he said he wanted to “leave the fifth spot open and let people make their own choice.”
And Domb? “He’s not my best friend, but he’s fine,” the mayor said.
Domb noticed the slight, which he attributes to questions he’s raised about administration spending.
“I don’t think they loved those questions," Domb said. "They probably want to make sure I’m not here anymore.”
Domb, who has spent $938,212 on television and radio ads through Sunday, didn’t want to speculate on 2023. He considers all at-large Democrats “at risk” this year and said he was staying focused on the race in front of him.
Willie Singletary, the former Traffic Court judge who went to federal prison for lying to the FBI in a corruption probe and emerged eager for another shot at public office, will not be a Democratic primary candidate for City Council at large, Pennsylvania’s Supreme Court ruled this week.
Singletary, a pastor who attended Tuesday’s endorsement meeting of the Black Clergy of Philadelphia and Vicinity, says he’ll spend the rest of this election season helping candidates he believes in.
Article 2, Section 7, of the state Constitution says people “convicted of embezzlement of public moneys, bribery, perjury, or other infamous crimes” cannot hold “any office of trust or profit” in the state.