Mayor Jim Kenney’s strategy for winning a second term in next month’s general election has been to pretend his Republican challenger, Billy Ciancaglini, doesn’t exist.
Maybe not everyone in City Hall got that memo.
Someone dialed up Ciancaglini from what appeared to be the city’s main phone number — 215-686-1776 — Wednesday afternoon to curse him out.
Ciancaglini, who is used to being ignored, saw an opportunity. He rushed to Facebook to post a screenshot of his cell phone with the call details. His post declared: “How do you know you are winning? When City Hall LITERALLY calls your phone to tell you that you are [an expletive].”
Clout’s editor declined to let us spell out the phrase employed in the call. Let’s just say it rhymes with trucking gas coal.
Ciancaglini told Clout the caller sounded like “an older white guy” who claimed to be named James Walsh and even offered to spell his name. There is no James Walsh employed by the city.
“He insisted on pointing out that I couldn’t do anything to get him fired,” Ciancaglini said. “He told me no one was supporting me and that he was on his lunch break, calling from a government phone, and that I was never going to be mayor.”
The Mayor’s Office has a theory, but no evidence, that this was “spoofing,” when scammers pretend to be dialing from a telephone number, using fake caller identification information.
Kenney spokesperson Mike Dunn said he appreciated that “this resident” — that’s how he referred to the Republican nominee who must not be named — “drew the matter to our attention.” He also said it would take Verizon “a couple of weeks” to identify the origins of the call.
The city has had some incidents of spoofed calls, according to Dunn, something other municipalities and agencies have also dealt with. The U.S. Marshals Service in Philadelphia warned this summer about scammers claiming to be calling from the law enforcement office.
Spoofers are usually trying to gain something from the people they call. But Ciancaglini’s caller just wanted to annoy him. Sounds as if it didn’t pay off.
“If I had a nickel for everyone who cursed at me in the last year, I’d have a lot of nickles,” he said.
Joe Gale vs. the Republican Party … again
Stop us if you’ve heard this one before: Montgomery County Commissioner Joe Gale is pushing a conspiracy theory about how his fellow Republicans are trying to defeat him on Election Day.
Of course you’ve heard this before. Clout reported last month on how Gale claimed the Montgomery County Republican Party is trying to “sabotage” his bid for a second term. He made a similar claim in his 2015 campaign.
This time, Gale has gone to war with the Horsham GOP. He posted that party’s most recent campaign finance report on Facebook last week, including 17 donations for a combined $19,250 from Philadelphia political action committees controlled by Democrats, including Kenney and City Council members Helen Gym, Kenyatta Johnson, and Mark Squilla.
Gale’s take: “Republican insiders” were conspiring with Democrats “to defeat me.”
“Don’t let Philly Democrats choose your Republican Montgomery County Commissioner!!!” Gale’s post said, adding a warning that “the swamp” might try to “alter, amend or tamper with the evidence.”
Spoiler: The Pennsylvania Department of State says the Horsham report was “data-entered incorrectly” and revised Tuesday to delete the inaccurately included Democratic donations.
Gale, true to form, took to Facebook again to declare that correction proof of his conspiracy theory.
Anthony Spangler, chairman of the Horsham GOP, wrote to Gale last week, calling his allegations “fabricated” and threatening to sue the commissioner if he did not retract his claims by Tuesday.
Another spoiler: There was no retraction (of course) and no lawsuit (so far).
Gale, again true to form, paints himself as the victim in all this and says Spangler defamed him with that letter.
“Therefore, I welcome Mr. Spangler’s frivolous lawsuit and will gladly file a credible counterclaim for defamation against him,” Gale wrote in an email to Clout.
Clout has a strict sorry-not-sorry policy
Soon-to-be Sheriff Rochelle Bilal was apparently offended by a Clout column last month, detailing how the Guardian Civic League threw a going-to-prison party and fund-raiser for former Sheriff John Green. We thought the party was interesting, since Bilal, president of the league, ran on a pledge to reform the scandal-plagued office.
Former State Rep. Harold James had her back. He wrote an op-ed published in the Philadelphia Public Record and Philadelphia Sunday Sun, calling for us to apologize. He also questioned Clout’s “political intelligence” and suggested it was a “distorted point of view” to quote Bilal’s Facebook posts — now deleted — publicizing and defending the fund-raiser.
Green, now serving a five-year federal prison term for taking $675,000 in bribes, did not attend the event and told Clout he was “shocked” when he heard about it.
James told Clout he thought it was unfair to make Bilal look as if she “spearheaded the event” since he hosted it as a former president of the league, which represents African American law enforcement officers. Bilal touted his op-ed on her campaign Facebook page, proclaiming, “We shall not be silenced.” Curious, since she declined to comment about the fund-raiser.
If James’ name rings a bell, he resigned from office in 2015 and then pleaded guilty to one count of conflict of interest in a plea deal that spared him a prison term in a corruption case.