Committee of Seventy
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|Purpose||Clean and effective government. Fair Elections. Informed Citizens.|
|Philadelphia and five suburban counties|
President and CEO
The Committee of Seventy is an independent, non-partisan advocate for better government in Philadelphia that works to achieve clean and effective government, better elections and informed and engaged 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,
Committee of Seventy was established in 1904 for the express purpose of improving the voting process, bringing people of competence and integrity into government, combating corruption, and informing and engaging citizens in the critical affairs of the day. 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.
From 2005 to 2010, Seventy led the fight to defend campaign financing limits, including a lawsuit initiated by Seventy that was eventually heard by the Pennsylvania Supreme Court, and to implement tough new public ethics laws and to sever the tie between contracts and political contributions in Philadelphia. Seventy continues to be the go-to spokesperson for trustworthy background and analysis on issues related to Philadelphia’s political culture and its government.
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.
Organization & Leadership
The Committee of Seventy is led by a Board of over 60 civic, business, labor and nonprofit leaders. Its current Chair is Dr. Stephen S. Tang, President and CEO of the University City Science Center in Philadelphia, one of the most important hubs of the region's entrepreneurial networks. Seventy operates in a lean staffing mode (a "112 year old startup" ) with 5 full-time staff and another 12-15 consultants, project managers and special advisors at any one point in time. David Thornburgh, a respected long time civic leader in Philadelphia and son of Dick Thornburgh, former two term Governor of PA and US Attorney General under Presidents Reagan and Bush, has served as President and CEO since December 1, 2014. He succeeded former Philadelphia Daily News Editor Zack Stalberg, who announced his retirement in June 2014 after 10 years leading the organization.
Seventy provides nonpartisan information on a various issues related to government and politics, traditionally focusing on elections and voting, campaign finance, ethics and transparency, and redistricting.
The Committee of Seventy is an independent and non-profit organization that depends on charitable donations to advance its mission for better government in Philadelphia and Pennsylvania. Seventy's IRS Form 990s are posted at www.seventy.org.
- Beckert, Sven: "Democracy and its Discontents: Contesting Suffrage Rights in Gilded Age New York" in Past and Present (February 2002), pp. 114–155.