My Turn

Lenfest's New Cause

11/26/2007 3:06 AM

 

H.F. “Gerry” Lenfest, cable billionaire, is in the news again in Philadelphia.

The former proprietor of Oaks, Pa.-based Suburban Cable, who sold his half of the company to co-owner AT&T in 1999 (the 1.2 million subscribers ended up with Comcast), makes frequent hometown headlines with charitable donations. He also has backed controversial plans to move the Barnes Foundation’s world-famous art collection from Merion, Pa., to Philadelphia.

On Friday, Lenfest turned up in a remarkable Philadelphia Inquirer story about a 32-year-old black physician and political newbie named Keith Leaphart who’s considering a Democratic primary challenge to five-term congressman Bob Brady, of Philadelphia.

Lenfest and Peter Buttenweiser, a Philly resident described as a prominent political fundraiser, are co-chairing a Dec. 6 benefit in Philadelphia to back Leaphart’s possible candidacy in next April’s Democratic primary.

"Keith is a man of deep integrity and intelligence,” Lenfest told the Inky. “He thinks he can represent his community in an honest, straightforward way, and do something more than is being done by the current congressman."

Said the Inky: “He met Leaphart in 1999 when Leaphart, then completing his first year of school at the Philadelphia College of Osteopathic Medicine, opened a janitorial company whose major client was Lenfest’s Suburban Cable. While Leaphart cleaned Lenfest’s executive office nearly every day, they developed ‘a mutual respect,’ Leaphart said.”

I say: Talk about your brushes with greatness.

Lenfest hasn’t previously been politically active, other than making contributions to candidates, the newspaper said.

Leaphart, who has an MBA in addition to his medical degree (he works in a rehabilitation hospital), has a couple of things going for him, the paper said. Brady lost badly in a primary leading up to the Philadelphia mayoral election. And Brady is the only white member of the House who represents a mostly black constituency (Pennsylvania’s First District). Still, the paper says Leaphart would face a "formidable task."
But he has some rich friends.

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