Committee of Seventy

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For the 19th-century New York City organization, see Committee of Seventy (New York City).
Committee of Seventy
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Founded 1904
Purpose Clean and effective government. Fair Elections. Informed Citizens.
Region served
Philadelphia and five suburban counties
President and CEO
David Thornburgh

The Committee of Seventy is a non-partisan government watchdog group in Philadelphia that works to achieve clean and effective government, fair elections and informed citizens. Founded in 1904, it is a nonprofit organization guided by a Board of Directors made up of some of the region’s most respected business, legal and civic leaders, The Committee of Seventy's stated mission is to use its voice and its influence to provoke real government reform in order to attract more residents and businesses to the region. Commonly known as "Seventy," the organization never endorses candidates in order to maintain its non-partisan stance.


Committee of Seventy was established in 1904 for the express purpose of combating corruption in Philadelphia. From its origins, Seventy’s mission was clear, to rekindle civic concern and involvement in Philadelphia. The organization played a major role in the adoption of civil service reforms and the passage of the 1919 and 1951 Home Rule Charters. Towards mid-century, Seventy expanded its focus to working on public policy and civic education by undertaking research projects to identify problems in the city and propose solutions, and conducting outreach to educate Philadelphians on local government.

It is fair to say that during the past ten years, Seventy has radically transformed itself from being just an election watchdog to a bolder more comprehensive good government group, due in no small measure to the introduction of new executive and Board leadership.

That investment helped resurrect the City’s only independent watchdog and allowed Seventy to reinvigorate itself to change permanently Philadelphia’s political culture.

During 2005-2010, Seventy led the fight to defend campaign financing limits, a fight that went all the way to the Supreme Court thanks to a lawsuit initiated by Seventy, in 2007-08. The war against pay-to-play politics in Philadelphia helped to turn the ideas of better government and fair elections into a movement. Seventy continues to be the go-to spokesperson for trustworthy background and analysis on issues related to Philadelphia’s political culture and its government.

Today, Seventy fights relentlessly for clean and effective government, fair elections, and better informed citizens, all of which are intimately intertwined with the quality of life for the region’s residents and businesses.


The name comes from the Bible. According to the organization's website, "Chronicling the Israelites’ journey through the desert, Exodus tells of seventy elders who were appointed to assist Moses in the governance of the people. In 1904, this Committee of Seventy was so named to represent an analogous function: to be the ethical backbone of a city forgetting its conscience." The references appear in Exodus 24:1-9, in which God instructs Moses how to proceed once Israel accepts the Covenant: "And he said unto Moses, Come up unto the LORD, thou, and Aaron, Nadab, and Abihu, and seventy of the elders of Israel; and worship ye afar off." — Exodus 24:1.

A Committee of Seventy already existed in 19th-century New York City.[1]

Organization & Leadership[edit]

Committee of Seventy has 6 full-time staff supported by 4-6 interns.

Michael Carbone, Senior Vice President, TD Bank Group and Regional President for TD Bank’s Metro PA/NJ Market, serves as Chair of the Board of Directors.

Zack Stalberg, former editor of the Philadelphia Daily News, was named President and Chief Executive Officer (CEO) in 2005. He broadened Seventy’s mission, brought it new life, and helped to attract a diverse governing board made up of many of the region’s most principled and influential individuals. Seventy announced his retirement June 3, 2014.

Ellen Mattleman Kaplan led as interim president and CEO, beginning June 26, before David Thornburgh started as president and CEO, December 1, 2014.


Seventy is the go-to-organization for a steady stream of timely, trustworthy information on issues related to Philadelphia’s government and political culture. Seventy's website is a great resource for those wanting to learn about issues affecting Philadelphia's regional government and who want to become more civically involved.


The Committee of Seventy is a non-profit organization that depends on charitable donations to continue fighting for a better more honest government.


  1. ^ Beckert, Sven: "Democracy and its Discontents: Contesting Suffrage Rights in Gilded Age New York" in Past and Present (February 2002), pp. 114–155.

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