A new state Political Action Committee sprung to life in 2020 amid a strange and emotional political environment both in Pennsylvania and across the nation. The Keystone Free Enterprise Fund (KFEF) promises to focus its efforts on supporting business and free markets, perhaps signaling a return to normalcy and the old-school notion that economic issues can bridge partisan divides.
The PAC will support viable candidates to state and local office in Pennsylvania, with a special emphasis on Chester County and Southeastern PA. The group held its inaugural event on Thursday, September 9 to honor Chester County Chamber of Business and Industry President Guy Ciarrocchi.
Honoring Ciarrocchi is a strong signal that the Fund is serious about its commitment to business. Ciarrocchi is an influential business leader, an advocate for free-market reform, and, in the interest of full disclosure, a frequent contributor to these e-pages. As KFEF Chair Vincent Hartnett remarked on his awardee, “Guy was already a key leader of the area business community, but his impassioned defense of, and advocacy for, our local small businesses during the COVID lockdown went above and beyond.”
Moving forward, the key issues the PAC will focus on include driving economic growth, securing responsible budgeting and responsible government spending, providing businesses with a skilled workforce, enacting civil justice/legal reform, and improving business tax structure. What remains to be seen is whether these issues are the issues for Pennsylvanians. If KFEF can build momentum for candidates focused on its issues, it will prove a salient point about the importance of business and economic prosperity to Pennsylvanians.
Pennsylvanians are clearly dissatisfied with something, as population growth dropped to 2.4 percent in the most recent census. That’s down by 1 percent and well below our neighboring eastern states.
If KFEF can build momentum for candidates focused on its issues, it will prove a salient point about the importance of business and economic prosperity to Pennsylvanians.
Southeastern Pennsylvania, where KFEF promises to focus its efforts, has not yet recovered from the economic effects of the pandemic The unemployment rate in Philadelphia currently sits at 9.4 percent.
Chester County and its neighbors have some of the highest crime rates in the state. So economics and criminal justice are natural areas of concern, both statewide and in KFEF’s target region. These counties are also some of the bluest in the state, and if KFEF wants to build momentum for free-market policies, it won’t be through energizing a Republican base on social issues.
In a state that split its vote 50 percent to 49 percent in the last presidential election, fresh new political attitudes in deep blue counties could have a radical impact. Furthermore, by breaking down some of the red tape in Harrisburg and empowering businesses, KFEF hopes to re-energize citizens and help reverse that declining rate in population growth.
However, the PAC was not founded as a partisan entity, and its board is composed of area leaders who are concerned about economic prosperity. KFEF Vice-Chair Earl Baker noted the bipartisan nature of the PAC and the laser focus on economic goals
“At KFEF, we are all about winning campaigns and stocking the Legislature, especially with more leaders who demonstrably and actively support and promote pro-free enterprise and pro-economic growth policies,” Baker said.
Time will tell how KFEF impacts the political horizon of the Keystone State.
Thomas Pack is a Staff Writer at Broad and Liberty. He can be reached by email at email@example.com.