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    Standing In the Way of a Black Stimulus

Standing In the Way of a Black Stimulus:

The Ultra-Wealthy People and Corporations Starving the Philadelphia City Budget and Funding the Police

Over the last week, people around the world have been rising up in response to the death of George Floyd, an unarmed Black man killed by a police officer in Minneapolis. Protests have been punctuated by demands to defund the police and fully fund the basic necessities that have been withheld from Black communities for generations: affordable housing, quality public education, fair work, and programs that actually keep people safe.

A Black Stimulus will require massive public investment. Where can the money come from? To start, cutting police budgets and making sure billionaires, corporations, and the ultra-wealthy pay their fair share in taxes.

In Philadelphia, the city plans to spend $760 million on police this year, about 15% of the total operating budget and twenty times more than it plans to spend on libraries. Billionaires, corporations, and the ultra-wealthy avoid paying billions of dollars in taxes every year at the federal, state, and local levels

This report profiles the billionaires, CEOs, and corporations that are simultaneously starving Philly’s Black communities of the public investment they deserve and funding the Philadelphia Police Department’s racist and dangerous policing.

*In response to public pressure over their role in funding the police, The Philadelphia Police Foundation has removed almost all content from its website, which might break some of the links in this report. However, you can use archive.org to see previous versions of their site. See hereherehere. We also have screen shots from the website available upon request.
Email molly@littlesis.org. *

What Can You Do?

Key Findings | Philadelphia Police Foundation Funders | Billionaires Profit during COVID | Philadelphia’s Villains | Recommendations

Key findings include:

Comcast CEO Brian Roberts, Independence Blue Cross CEO Daniel Hilferty,  Brandywine Realty CEO Jerry Sweeney, and University of Pennsylvania President Amy Gutmann are simultaneously starving Philly’s Black communities of the public investment they deserve and funding the Philadelphia Police Department’s racist and dangerous policing. Comcast, Brandywine Realty, Independence Blue Cross, and UPenn are not paying their fair share of taxes. They also fund the Philadelphia Police Department through the Philadelphia Police Foundation, where they are key corporate partners. 

Some of Philadelphia’s most powerful corporations and institutions, including Comcast, the University of Pennsylvania, Independence Blue Cross, and Brandywine Realty Trust fund the Philadelphia Police Department through the Philadelphia Police Foundation. The Philadelphia Police Foundation is a nonprofit organization that provides support and resources to the Philadelphia Police Department. Its leadership and funders are made up entirely of corporations and corporate executives from the Philadelphia region. Independence Blue Cross, Brandywine Realty Trust, and the University of Pennsylvania are all partners of the foundation. Comcast, University Pennsylvania, and Brandywine Realty Trust have representatives on the organization’s board. A representative of the University of Pennsylvania is the president of the police foundation’s board of directors.

Philadelphia’s billionaires, the ultra-wealthy, and corporations avoid paying billions of dollars in taxes every year at the federal, state, and local levels. In doing so, they starve Black communities throughout the city of much needed investment in affordable housing, quality public education, fair and dignified work, and programs that actually keep communities safe. Instead of paying their fair share to fund public budgets, billionaires and the ultra-wealthy hoard their wealth, buying mansions, donating large sums to elected officials, and lining their already large bank accounts. 

Pennsylvania’s billionaires have not been financially harmed by the coronavirus pandemic – in fact, they have made $1 billion since the beginning of the pandemic. Pennsylvania’s 10 billionaires increased their net worth by an estimated $1.3 billion, or 4.78%, from March 18th to May 26th. Even amidst the wreckage of the pandemic, the billionaires’ collective net worth has rebounded and surged to $28.5 billion. Philadelphia’s wealthiest resident, Comcast CEO Brian Roberts, net worth has not been damaged by the pandemic. In fact, his net worth increased from $1.7 billion on March 18 to $1.8 billion on May 26.

The people and corporations highlighted in this report have contributed at least $152,600 to Philadelphia elected officials since 2014. The top recipients are Mayor Jim Kenney and city councilmembers Kenyatta Johnson, Derek Green, Allan Domb, and Darrell Clarke.

Philly’s most powerful corporations and institutions – including Comcast, Independence Blue Cross, and the University of Pennsylvania – back the Philadelphia Police Foundation.

Most major cities have police foundations. These nonprofit organizations are dedicated to providing support and resources to their local police departments. They primarily raise money for the police, holding fundraising events and galas. The money the foundations raise is often used to buy local police departments even more militarized equipment. For example, in Philadelphia the police foundation has purchased long guns and related equipment for the PPD’s SWAT unit, drones, and state of the art ballistic helmets for the elite tactical SWAT team.

Corporations and corporate executives lead, fundraise for, and partner with police foundations. Big business and billionaire backing of police foundations illustrates the close link between the police and the power structure, and the ways in which policing is designed to protect the interests of wealth and property. In addition to providing additional funding, the foundations are key nodes in connecting the power structure and the police, providing pathways for communication, coordination, and cohesion.

The Philadelphia Police Foundation’s board and list of partners reads like a who’s-who of powerful Philadelphians. “Partners” include Independence Blue Cross, University of Pennsylvania, Temple University, Brandywine Realty Trust, WaWa, goPuff, and PREIT. The board of directors includes representatives from the University of Pennsylvania, Temple University, Cozen O’Connor, the FOP, Comcast, Brandywine Realty Trust, and Drexel University.

The Philadelphia Police Foundation does not disclose its donors. However, if a corporation/institution is a partner or represented on the board of directors, they almost certainly donate and/or use their networks to fundraise for the police.

Additionally, it identifies corporate sponsors of its annual gala (which was recently postponed) on the web page for the gala. Sponsorships that include a listing on the web page range from $5,000 to $25,000, though amounts donated by some corporations are likely much higher. In 2010, for instance, Comcast donated $80,000 to the foundation, including $60,000 in on-air advertising for “Police Appreciation Month.” This year’s gala sponsors include Independence Blue Cross, UPenn, Comcast, Brandywine Realty Trust, Bank of America, and PNC.

Thanks to decades of tax cuts for the wealthy, Philly’s corporations, billionaires, and ultra-wealthy are starving Black communities of the investment they deserve

We are living in a time of extreme wealth inequality. At the federal, state, and municipal level, billionaires, corporations, and the ultra-wealthy do not pay their fair share in taxes, which starves Black communities of the investment they deserve to thrive. By not paying their fair share in taxes, the ultra-wealthy are denying Black communities affordable housing, quality public education, fair and dignified work, and programs that actually keep us safe.

According to ITEP, the tax obligations of America’s billionaires (measured as a percentage of their wealth) decreased 79 percent between 1980 and 2018. Corporations and the ultra-wealthy have been the beneficiaries of massive, historic tax giveaways under Trump.

In Pennsylvania, corporate tax rates have plummeted over the past 3 decades. If we had not cut corporate taxes in the last 15 years, the commonwealth would be receiving an additional $4 billion a year.

Pennsylvania also has one of the most regressive tax structures in the country, thanks to the so-called “uniformity clause.” This regressive structure results in poor and middle-class Pennsylvanians paying a larger share of their income in taxes than the wealthy do; the poorest fifth of Pennsylvanians pay more than 11% of their income on state and local taxes. Those in the middle-income bracket pay nearly 10%.  The state’s wealthiest residents pay just 5%.

The push for tax cuts for corporations and the ultra-wealthy wasn’t just national or statewide, it was local as well and even more frenzied at the local level. During the early 2000s, the Chamber of Commerce launched a campaign to completely abolish the Business Privilege Tax, which produced $400 million a year, or 10% of the entire Philly budget. In support, corporate executives actually staged a march on City Hall and launched “Philadelphia Forward” as a “good government” front to pursue ending the Business Privilege Tax.

Although they never succeeded in abolishing the tax altogether, they did succeed in cutting one element of it – the Gross Receipts Tax – by 60%, down to a nearly invisible rate of .001415%. This occurred after Philadelphia banks, threatening to pack up and leave the City, effectively coerced the City to abandon its small tax on wealth – the Personal Property Tax – in 1997.

It is difficult to estimate the full extent to which billionaires, corporations, and the ultra-wealthy avoid paying their fair share in taxes. Our calculations show that implementing just two sensible changes to taxation at the city level – increasing the Gross Receipts Tax and reinstating the Personal Property Tax – would raise at least $100 million next year.

The ultra-wealthy’s refusal to pay their fair share in taxes not only denies Black communities of much-deserved investment, it also helps set up the conditions to justify policing in Black communities. When the ultra-wealthy do not pay their fair share, they create budget deficits. In an attempt to fill those deficits, cities cut services and rely on fines and fees to raise money. This system of raising money through fines and fees then justifies policing the poor. 

While the coronavirus is devastating Black and Latinx communities, billionaires are profiting — in PA, billionaires have increased their wealth by $1 billion since the beginning of the pandemic .

Last month, the Institute for Policy Studies released a report which found that U.S. billionaires got $434 billion richer during the coronavirus pandemic. Jeff Bezos alone increased his fortune by an estimated $25 billion from January 1, 2020 to April 15, 2020. While some politicians, including Governor Andrew Cuomo, have called coronavirus “the great equalizer,” this is clearly not the case. The billionaire class is not hurting. While pre-existing structural inequities have caused the disease and its side-effects to devastate Latinx and Black communities, the billionaire class has seen their wealth increase. 

Our original research shows that a similar trend is occurring in Pennsylvania. Pennsylvania’s 10 billionaires increased their net worth by an estimated $1.3 billion, or 4.78%, from March 18th to May 26th. Even amidst the wreckage of the pandemic, the billionaires’ collective net worth has rebounded and surged to $28.5 billion. Philadelphia’s wealthiest resident, Comcast CEO Brian Roberts, net worth has not been damaged by the pandemic. In fact, his net worth increased from $1.7 billion on March 18 to $1.8 billion on May 26.

The billionaires and corporations standing in the way of Philly’s Black Stimulus:

Philadelphia’s billionaires, ultra-wealthy, and corporations avoid paying their fair share of taxes, thereby starving Black communities throughout the city of much needed investment. They also prop up the Philly Police Department by partnering with the Philly Police Foundation. The profiles below show examples of people and corporations that are starving Black communities of the investment they deserve while simultaneously investing in the Philadelphia Police Department’s racist and dangerous policing.

Brian Roberts, Comcast CEO

With a net worth of $1.8 billion, Comcast CEO Brian Roberts is Philadelphia’s richest resident. His wealth hasn’t taken a hit due to coronavirus. In fact, his net worth has actually increased from $1.7 billion to $1.8 billion over the course of the pandemic. In 2019, his total compensation from Comcast was $36.4 million. Like all billionaires, Roberts is not paying his fair share of taxes on his massive wealth.

He has invested some of his nearly $2 billion to buy up luxury real estate, including a $14.3 million Four Seasons condo at the top of the Comcast Technology Center, a $15 million mansion in North Palm Beach, and a $2.6 million home in the Chestnut Hill neighborhood of Philadelphia. Roberts’ Palm Beach mansion is in the Lost Tree Village community, “one of the finest and most scenically beautiful gated golf communities in the country…Gently winding tree-lined streets lead residents to a myriad of activities: The Club for fine dining and social gatherings, meticulously tended clay tennis courts and a newly completed state-of-the-art Fitness Center accommodate residents of all fitness levels. Lost Tree fosters a lifestyle consistent with the best memories from a by-gone era.”

Comcast is one of Philadelphia’s most notorious corporate tax dodgers. Due to the ten-year tax abatement, the company will not pay taxes on the value of its $1.2 billion Technology Center until 2027. Comcast was also a major beneficiary of Trump’s 2017 corporate tax giveaway. In 2018, they were among the top 25 companies with the largest tax breaks from the 2017 Trump tax cuts, according to the Institute on Taxation and Economic Policy.In 2018 alone they did not pay $861 million in taxes that they would have otherwise owed if taxed at the statutory 21 percent corporate tax rate. 

Comcast also props up and funds the Philadelphia Police Department through its participation in the Philadelphia Police Foundation. Comcast Director of Production Amelia Riley is on the board of the Philly Police Foundation. Comcast is a sponsor of the foundation’s “A Night for Blue” gala this year. 

Richard Hayne, Urban Outfitters CEO

Urban Outfitters founder and CEO Richard Hayne is worth $1.2 billion. Hayne is a frequent Republican donor, having contributed at least $30,000 to the Republican National Committee in recent years. He has also contributed thousands of dollars to Pat Toomey, Paul Ryan, and Patrick Meehan.

Hayne owns a 220 acre estate in Coatesville, PA that includes Doe Run Dairy farm, which produces cheese. He also owns several multi-million dollar beachfront properties on Jupiter Island Florida and was the rumored buyer of a $39 million ranch in Jackson Hole, Wyoming.

Jerry Sweeney, Brandywine Realty Trust

Jerry Sweeney, one of Philadelphia’s most powerful real estate developers, embraces his role as a “developer-statesman” shaping Philadelphia’s future. As the developer for the Schuylkill Yards project, he has radically transformed West Philadelphia. Sweeney’s firm, Brandywine development, also owns a lot of downtown real estate, including 1717 Arch Street, 2001 Market Street, 2005 Market Street, and 2929 Arch Street.

Being one of the city’s biggest real estate investors pays well; in 2019, Sweeney’s compensation totaled $4.55 million, putting him on the list of top paid Philadelphia CEOs.

Brandywine is poised to benefit from the massive real estate industry tax giveaways included in the The Coronavirus Aid, Relief, and Economic Security (CARES) Act. Those tax breaks will hand over an estimated $160 billion to the real estate industry, including Jared Kushner’s family business. 

Brandywine is a corporate partner of the Philly Police Foundation and Brandywine CFO Thomas Wirth is on the board of the Philly Police Foundation. Sweeney was also a co-chair of the foundation’s recently postponed “Night for Blue” fundraiser. Brandywine is a sponsor of the foundation’s “A Night for Blue” gala this year. 

Amy Gutmann, University of Pennsylvania President

With its $14 billion endowment, the University of Pennsylvania is one of the wealthiest institutions in Philadelphia. President Amy Gutmann made $3.9 million last year. Even though the university owns $3.2 billion in real estate, they use their non-profit status to avoid paying any property taxes. For years, students, staff, and community members have called on the university to pay Payment in Lieu of Taxes (PILOTS). If UPenn paid PILOTS, they would contribute at least $15.6 million a year to Philly schools and services.

UPenn is a partner of the Philly Police Foundation. UPenn Vice President for Public Safety, Maureen Rush, is the President of the Philly Police Foundation board. Penn is a sponsor of the foundation’s “A Night for Blue” gala this year. 

Daniel Hilferty, CEO of Independence Blue Cross

Daniel Hilferty is the CEO of Independence Blue Cross, a large private health insurance company headquartered in Philadelphia. Hilferty is an influential figure in the Philadelphia business community. He is the Chairman of the Greater Philadelphia Chamber of Commerce.

He was also a member of the host committee for the 2016 Philadelphia Democratic National Convention, even though he has donated significant amounts to Republicans over the decades. He owns a mansion in Ardmore, Pennsylvania and a multi-million dollar Jersey Shore beach house.

Independence Blue Cross is a Philly Police Foundation corporate partner.

Blue Cross is also sponsoring a Philly Police Foundation fundraiser that was scheduled to take place at the Union League of Philadelphia but was recently postponed due to coronavirus. Daniel Hilferty is a co-chair of the fundraiser. Independence Blue Cross is a sponsor of the foundation’s “A Night for Blue” gala this year. In 2014, Independence Blue Cross donated $100,000 to the police foundation. 

Wells Fargo

The city of Philadelphia continues to bank with Wells Fargo- a financial institution known to be aggressively predatory in the city. Wells Fargo’s discriminatory practices in Philly caused foreclosures to increase and resulted in the loss of much needed tax revenue.

The analysis of the bank’s discriminatory lending found that 23% of Wells Fargo’s loans to black and brown customers in Philadelphia were high-cost or high-risk, compared with 7.6% of loans made to white borrowers.

Philadelphia filed a lawsuit in 2017 against Wells Fargo for violating the Fair Housing Act by taking “advantage of minority borrowers to maximize profits.” In 2019, the bank was ordered to pay $10MM in restitution to its victims. 

Profiting on the backs of black and brown people is nothing new for the bank; they’ve financed private prisons and immigrant detention centers and financially backed racist politicians.

Recommendations

  • We call on Mayor Kenney and all members of the Philadelphia City Council to:
  • We call on all Philadelphia Police Foundation board members to resign. 
  • We call on all Philadelphia Police Foundation corporate partners to end their relationship with the foundation.
  • We call on all corporations affiliated with the Philly Police Foundation to provide a full accounting of how much money they have raised for and donated to the Philadelphia Police Department (through the foundation or any other mechanisms) and donate that amount to our local bail funds: The Philadelphia Community Bail Fund and the Philadelphia Bail Fund.