Non-profit

Committee of Seventy

Website:

seventy.org

Location:

PHILADELPHIA, PA

Tax ID:

23-0487205

Tax-Exempt Status:

501(c)(3)

Budget (2019):

Revenue: $1,450,838
Expenses: $1,510,396
Assets: $831,346

Type:

Government Watchdog

Formation:

1904

President:

Al Schmidt

The Committee of Seventy is a government watchdog organization in Philadelphia. Founded in 1904, the Committee is ostensibly non-partisan, but recently has pursued election and campaign reform policies that align with Democratic priorities. The organization’s president, Al Schmidt, is a Republican who fought against President Donald Trump’s challenges to Philadelphia’s vote counting in 2020.

The Committee is a member of the National Association of Nonpartisan Reformers. [1]

History

In 1904, the Committee of Seventy was founded in Philadelphia, Pennsylvania by a local group of business and civic leaders seeking to clean up corruption after muckraker Lincoln Steffens had deemed the city “the worst-governed” in the United States. Philadelphia had previous good-governance groups with similar names, and “seventy” was chosen as a reference to a Biblical passage in which God ordered Moses to name 70 elders to lead the Israelites. [2]

In the first half of its existence, the Committee claims to have helped create Philidelphia’s municipal court system in 1913, passed legislation requiring the mayor to make annual budget reports to city council, and blocked an attempt by Republican Party boss William Vare to steal a U.S. Senate election in 1926. [3]

Since 2000, the Committee has prioritized establishing stricter campaign finance limits and more government transparency. [4]

Activities

Policy Goals

The Committee of Seventy pursues left-of-center electoral and non-partisan anti-corruption reforms. The Committee supports stricter campaign finance limits, the establishment of open primaries (in which voters can vote in primaries outside their parties), and the creation of an Inspector General position to monitor for waste and fraud in government. [5]

The Committee promotes a “culture of voting” by encouraging voter registration and producing publications on the voting process. [6]

Philadelphia City Council

In November 2021, the Committee of Seventy, the League of Women Voters, Philadelphia Councilwoman Maria Quinones Sanchez (D), and state Rep. Jared Solomon (D) launched a petition seeking numerous changes to the Philadelphia City Council in response to the conviction of Councilman Bobby Henon (D) and International Brotherhood of Electrical Workers business manager John Dougherty for offenses related to an embezzlement and corruption scheme. [7]

The proposals included a ban on outside work for city council members and government financing of local campaigns to lessen the influence of private campaign donations. [8]

Draw the Lines PA

From 2018-2022, the Committee of Seventy sponsored Draw the Lines PA (DTL), a campaign to combat gerrymandering in Pennsylvania. DTL drew “citizen maps” that supposedly created fair redistricting based on the 2020 census which reduced U.S. Congressional districts in Pennsylvania from 18 to 17. DTL claims its citizen maps are “partly to thank” for the official districts formed in 2022. [9]

The Committee was part of the Fair Districts PA coalition. [10]

Abolition of Philadelphia Election Commissioners

In January 2016, the Committee of Seventy called for the abolition of the offices of Philadelphia Commissioners, three positions elected to oversee elections. Two weeks prior, Commissioner Anthony Clark had been reelected and promptly filed for a $495,000 pension payout that was enhanced by his $138,612 annual salary as commissioner. The Committee claimed that Commissioner Clark’s conduct demonstrated waste and perverse incentives and advocated for a new election oversight commission whose membership would be directly appointed by the city council. [11] Four years later, Commissioner Al Schmidt would become the president of the Committee of Seventy. [12]

Funding

The Committee of Seventy receives funding from for-profit businesses. In 2020, its largest donors were Brandywine Realty Trust, Comcast, Independence Blue Cross, TD Bank, the law firm Morgan Lewis and Bockius, and the Philadelphia Phillies. The Committee of Seventy’s board includes corporate executives from Brandywine, Realty Trust, Morgan Lewis and Bockius, Glenmede, the Philadelphia Phillies, Ernst and Young, TD Bank, and M&T Bank. [13]

Philadelphia AFL-CIO labor union council president Patrick Elding sits on the board of the Committee. [14]

Leadership

In November 2021, Al Schmidt became the president and CEO of the Committee of Seventy. For ten years, Schmidt was the only Republican on the Philadelphia Board of Commissioners, which oversees the city’s elections, until he declined to run for reelection in 2022. Schmidt was formerly an analyst at the U.S. Government Accountability Office (GAO). [15]

Schmidt is best known for defending Philadelphia’s 2020 election results from accusations of voter fraud levied by supporters of President Donald Trump. Then-President Trump personally tweeted about Schmidt, calling him a RINO (Republican in name only) who “refuses to look at a mountain of corruption & dishonesty.” [16] [17]

References

  1. “Committee of Seventy.” National Association of Nonpartisan Reporters. Accessed April 24, 2022. https://nonpartisanreformers.org/members/committee-of-seventy. ^
  2. “Our History: An Overview.” Committee of Seventy. Accessed April 22, 2022. https://archive.seventy.org/about/our-history. ^
  3. “Our History: An Overview.” Committee of Seventy. Accessed April 22, 2022. https://archive.seventy.org/about/our-history. ^
  4. “Our History: An Overview.” Committee of Seventy. Accessed April 22, 2022. https://archive.seventy.org/about/our-history. ^
  5. “Issues.” Committee of Seventy. Accessed April 24, 2022. https://seventy.org/issues-archive. ^
  6. “Delivering Democracy – A Report on the Committee of Seventy.” Issuu.com. April 13, 2021. Accessed April 23, 2022. https://issuu.com/70seventy/docs/com70_2020ar_r3_web_single. ^
  7. Mayk, Lauren; McCrone, Brian X. “Government Watchdog Groups, Elected Officials Call for Reform in Philly.” NBC Philadelphia. November 29, 2021. Accessed April 23, 2022. https://www.nbcphiladelphia.com/news/politics/government-watchdog-groups-elected-officials-call-for-reform-in-philly/3062156/. ^
  8. Mayk, Lauren; McCrone, Brian X. “Government Watchdog Groups, Elected Officials Call for Reform in Philly.” NBC Philadelphia. November 29, 2021. Accessed April 23, 2022. https://www.nbcphiladelphia.com/news/politics/government-watchdog-groups-elected-officials-call-for-reform-in-philly/3062156/. ^
  9. “PA’s Maps are Set.” Draw the Lines PA. Accessed April 22, 2022. https://drawthelinespa.org/pa-s-electionmaps. ^
  10. “The Committee of Seventy.” Mighty Cause. Accessed April 24, 2022. https://www.mightycause.com/organization/Committee-Of-70. ^
  11. Vargas, Claudia. “Committee of Seventy seeks abolition of city commissioners.” The Philadelphia Inquirer. January 21, 2016. Accessed April 22, 2022. https://www.inquirer.com/philly/news/politics/20160122_Watchdog__Abolish_election_board.html. ^
  12. “Al Schmidt.” Committee of Seventy. Accessed April 23, 2022. https://seventy.org/staff-board/al-schmidt. ^
  13. “Delivering Democracy – A Report on the Committee of Seventy.” Issuu.com. April 13, 2021. Accessed April 23, 2022. https://issuu.com/70seventy/docs/com70_2020ar_r3_web_single. ^
  14. “Delivering Democracy – A Report on the Committee of Seventy.” Issuu.com. April 13, 2021. Accessed April 23, 2022. https://issuu.com/70seventy/docs/com70_2020ar_r3_web_single. ^
  15. “Al Schmidt.” Committee of Seventy. Accessed April 23, 2022. https://seventy.org/staff-board/al-schmidt. ^
  16. Ralph, Pat. “Al Schmidt resigns as city commissioner to lead Committee of Seventy.” Philly Voice. November 30, 2021. Accessed April 24, 2022. https://www.phillyvoice.com/al-schmidt-philadelphia-city-commissioners-committee-of-seventy/. ^
  17. Kanik, Hannah. “Trump aims Twitter ire at Commissioner Al Schmidt with claim he ignored voter fraud in Philly.” Philly Voice. Nov. 11, 2020. Accessed April 23, 2022. https://www.phillyvoice.com/donald-trump-twitter-al-schmidt-commissioner-false-voter-fraud-allegations/. ^
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Nonprofit Information

  • Accounting Period: December - November
  • Tax Exemption Received: November 1, 2002

  • Available Filings

    Period Form Type Total revenue Total functional expenses Total assets (EOY) Total liabilities (EOY) Unrelated business income? Total contributions Program service revenue Investment income Comp. of current officers, directors, etc. Form 990
    2019 Dec Form 990 $1,450,838 $1,510,396 $831,346 $103,259 N $1,450,783 $0 $55 $316,289 PDF
    2018 Dec Form 990 $1,886,476 $1,490,804 $922,152 $134,507 N $1,886,461 $0 $15 $307,531 PDF
    2017 Dec Form 990 $1,100,824 $1,026,898 $523,271 $131,298 N $1,099,217 $0 $1,607 $292,567 PDF
    2016 Dec Form 990 $1,100,504 $1,018,452 $407,911 $89,864 N $1,100,481 $0 $23 $253,949 PDF
    2015 Dec Form 990 $1,034,619 $927,013 $277,949 $41,954 N $1,034,594 $0 $25 $248,873 PDF
    2014 Dec Form 990 $939,649 $1,104,059 $177,571 $49,187 N $939,568 $0 $81 $511,971 PDF
    2013 Dec Form 990 $771,627 $1,150,745 $459,782 $166,964 N $771,457 $0 $170 $588,729 PDF
    2012 Dec Form 990 $1,537,600 $1,271,773 $772,688 $100,887 N $1,535,487 $0 $88 $573,317 PDF
    2011 Dec Form 990 $914,255 $1,206,195 $545,273 $138,963 N $911,516 $0 $306 $512,224 PDF

    Additional Filings (PDFs)

    Committee of Seventy

    123 S BROAD ST STE 1800
    PHILADELPHIA, PA 19109-1026