Confirmed: Conservative think-tank is behind paid protestors at Philly teachers union event

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A screengrab from the Commonwealth Foundation's Web site.

A screengrab from the Commonwealth Foundation's Web site.

By Anna Orso

A conservative, free-market think tank in Harrisburg is behind efforts to pay people to distribute opposing information at a teacher’s union rally and protest planned for Thursday, Billy Penn has confirmed.

Cindy Hamill-Dahlgren, spokeswoman for the Commonwealth Foundation, confirmed Wednesday that the group hired New York guerrilla marketing firm GoGorilla, which will pay about 12 people to hand out fliers and hold banners in opposition to the teachers’ union — however, she said she wouldn’t characterize this effort as a “counter-protest.”

Hamill wouldn’t specify how much money the foundation is spending in order to counter the Philadelphia Federation of Teachers, but an email provided to Billy Penn shows some “brand ambassadors” were being offered $100 to $120 to assist.

In addition to the guerrilla marketing tactics, Hamill said the foundation is in the process of developing the website “PFTFails.com” which will lay out “exactly how the PFT and [president] Jerry Jordan are failing the teachers and the students.”

News of someone paying people to counter Philadelphia teachers trickled out Tuesday night when The Declaration reported that the guerrilla marketing firm was tapped to counter the teachers’ union. Wednesday morning, Philly Mag reported that PFTFails.com was registered to Nathan Benefield, a vice president with the Commonwealth Foundation.

GoGorilla declined to answer questions via phone, and referred Billy Penn to an online request-for-comment form. No comment has yet been received.

Hamill told Billy Penn the group decided to engage with the marketing firm because the Commonwealth Foundation has few members in southeastern Pa. and wanted help getting its message out. She said the Foundation will release more information today and Thursday about its “PFTFails” website and its overall message.

Anna Orso is a Reporter/Curator for Billy Penn. She can be reached at anna@billypenn.com; follow her on Twitter at @anna_orso.

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