Less than four months ahead of Election Day, when half of Pennsylvania’s Republican-controlled Senate will theoretically be up for grabs, it’s looking likely to be a rough year for the GOP.
Pennsylvania State Sen. Katie Muth is not on the ballot this year. But her profile has risen sharply since she was elected in 2018, and if Democrats take the Senate this year, you can expect to see and hear even more of her than you already do. That’s true even if you don’t live in the Keystone State.
Amazingly, given Muth’s “star” status and high-profile “conflict” with Pennsylvania’s Senate Majority Leader Corman last year (in which Corman was actually yelling at the Chair about enforcing Senate rules, not Muth but which was characterized by Muth allies and defenders as Corman yelling at her and being a massive, huge misogynist d-bag), there has been precious little scrutiny of her.
So, we decided to take a closer look, with a little help from a professional researcher pal. Fair warning: Some of what you’re going to read below may seriously weird you out, and we’re not even sure how to appropriately word a trigger warning or spoiler alert.
Muth won her seat in 2018, beating incumbent GOP Senator John Rafferty.
Rafferty had been the district senator since 2003. It was a relatively close race, and some people in the area say Rafferty didn’t even seem to consider that he needed to really “campaign” until late in the game, if at all.
Muth spent a lot of time trying to get polls done on the race; that speaks to a deficit of polling relative to other, more hotly-contested high-profile state legislative races around the country.
Muth ended up winning with 52% to Rafferty’s 48% – close enough that we can see Rafferty’s point.
But where did Muth come from, and how did she win? The answer to the first question, you’ll be surprised to know, is she appears to have been inspired to run just out of pure, straight-up loathing and hatred for President Trump.
A Center for Public Integrity piece that ran on November 2, 2018 described her as a “#metoo candidate.” That’s true; Muth has spoken of being raped and how this positioned her to engage in political activism to try to get alleged sex offenders and sex pests out of office. But the piece emphasizes that:
Muth belongs to the left’s new surge of women candidates furious about the 2016 election and pouring their rage into the midterms.
When Trump won, Muth channeled her disappointment into helping start a local branch of Indivisible, a progressive grassroots group that works to “resist the Trump agenda.”[…]She decries what she calls her state’s sexist political climate, paltry education funding, reluctance to fund public services. Not to mention what’s happening in the White House.“We have to win, or things don’t change,” she says. “The alternative is very scary.”[…]National heavyweight Planned Parenthood sent out a mailer on her behalf. Run for Something, yet another progressive organization formed after Trump’s election and focused on down-ballot races, submitted her name to Barack Obama, who endorsed her.
A Yahoo News piece noted that Trump’s win had Muth so depressed she “spen[t] much of the next day in bed.”
So, it’s about Trump.
But Muth won by explicitly avoiding talking about Trump, and obscuring and concealing her anti-Trump views. Again, from that Center for Public Integrity piece:
She stays away from national politics if possible.“I try to always pivot from Trump because it’s just a rabbit hole — it’s not going to help you,” she says.
Trump didn’t win Muth’s district in 2016, but it only went to Clinton by a small margin. So you can see why Muth was smart to stay mum about him, and just run against the establishment and partisan politics altogether. Her first TV ad included the line “I’m Katie Muth, and I’m running for state Senate. Politicians from both parties don’t like it very much when I say that.”
But make no mistake, as part of her 2018 run, Muth engaged in plenty of politics-as-usual—and she is a liberal’s liberal, not the kind of moderate Democrat that the party, nationally, has taken pains to depict its recruits in swing states like Pennsylvania as being.
Rafferty, the incumbent Muth ousted in 2018, only had taken about 4 percent of his total $800,000 or so in campaign donations from out-of-state donors as of October 22, 2018 per the Center for Public Integrity.
But a review of Muth’s campaign finance reports (see here under the committee name “BE THE CHANGE PA”) shows that of the lesser $500,000 or so she brought in, more than 10% came from out-of-state. A few of those donations include $2500 from Flippable, $1000 from the hyper-lefty People for the American Way, $4500 from ASCEND PAC, $1000 from one Megan Hull of DC, $2000 from one Bob Trahan of CA and $1000 from one John Dawson of CA.
But Muth’s most interesting out-of-state donor is a guy called David Linton, who gave her a whopping $7,000. For those who don’t dabble in local politics, $7,000 is a pretty big chunk of change for a state legislative race.
Linton may be in some way related to Muth (we could not definitively nail that down), which may explain the donation. But he’s also a, shall we say, colorful character who makes your garden-variety woke liberal look like a member of Phyllis Schlafly’s Eagle Forum.
Linton is an academic whose area of focus is menstruation—and from a humanities (history, sociology, politics, etc.) perspective, not a medical one.
Linton released a book last year titled “Men and Menstruation: A Social Transaction (Visual Communication).”
Linton has spoken on Australian radio about his research and at a conference titled “Making Menstruation Matter.”
He is featured on the website for the Society of Menstrual Cycle Research (it seems that now, everything is an academic discipline if you turn it into one).
That Center for Public Integrity also noted Muth’s reliance on out-of-state donors and “grassroots,” even if it didn’t delve into Mr. Linton per se:
Volunteers in faraway locales like Los Angeles and Hawaii have penned more than 16,000 handwritten postcards to voters in her district. Flippable, a new group in New York committed to electing state-level Democrats, has given her more than $37,000 and has sent out email blasts soliciting more.Brooklyn’s Red2Blue fundraised, texted voters and sent canvassers from the Park Slope neighborhood down to Pennsylvania on her behalf. And a California woman even helped Muth knock on doors one evening while on a business trip to Philadelphia.“Thank God these national organizations picked us up,” Muth says. “We would be lost without them.”At the Manhattan fundraiser, New York City Council Member Helen Rosenthal pauses her remarks to give a shoutout to Muth.[…]Mary Ford, a New York City resident who works in advertising, is sitting on the floor near the front, shoes off, empty wine glass nearby, wearing a handkerchief around her neck emblazoned with the image of Beto O’Rourke, the Democrat campaigning for Sen. Ted Cruz’s seat in her home state of Texas.“Everybody’s got to fight this wave of conservatism,” Ford says. “While Obama was president, we thought we were very progressive, and they were gerrymandering and doing all the bad things they could possibly do. Now women and minorities have to stand up and vote these guys out.”Muth, the last speaker of the night, invites the New Yorkers to donate to her campaign or drive down to canvass with her. “We have some people in Brooklyn you can carpool with,” she explains.“People like you that throw in a few dollars here and there or come down on the weekend to knock doors with us, we are endlessly grateful,” she says. “Your state has really led the way and built a lot of momentum for my campaign.”The TV screen at the front lights up to urge the audience to donate by texting “Katie” to a six-digit number. Muth ends up raising $5,000 from the event. By Oct. 22, a month later, her total fundraising is about $360,000, according to a Center for Public Integrity analysis of campaign records. About a quarter of her monetary contributions over $50 came from out of state.The New York City fundraiser is just one of many ways out-of-state activists have pitched in to help Muth’s race.National heavyweight Planned Parenthood sent out a mailer on her behalf. Run for Something, yet another progressive organization formed after Trump’s election and focused on down-ballot races, submitted her name to Barack Obama, who endorsed her.She even appeared via Skype at a Los Angeles film screening and fundraiser hosted by Sister District, yet another state-focused, post-2016 group. The group pairs volunteers in liberal bastions, where their efforts aren’t needed, with candidates like Muth in swing states. Muth’s Sister District volunteers in Los Angeles and Hawaii have directed roughly $20,000 in donations to Muth’s campaign fund.[…]The out-of-state activists supporting Muth have also texted voters. This spring, Muth herself got a text from a Sister District volunteer, reminding her to vote for Katie Muth in the primary even when she was unopposed.
So basically, Muth was dragged over the finish line not by Pennsylvanians but by out-of-state liberals from hyper-leftist enclaves like New York City’s Park Slope.
Muth also engaged in the kind of resume-embellishment that voters have become so tired of.
Unlike Elizabeth Warren, she didn’t claim to be a minority. But rather than accurately describing herself as an athletic trainer, she tried to depict herself as something more… highbrow.
When someone [answers the doorbell], Muth introduces herself as a “teacher and healthcare provider,” rather than the more specific “athletic trainer.”
This is, perhaps, one area where she differs from AOC: AOC explicitly ran as a bartender, perhaps because it reinforced the “working class” image she was trying to put forward.
Muth seems to have wanted to get herself a better job by fibbing and obscuring, despite the fact that Yahoo quoted her as saying during her run that “I don’t want to lie for the vote.”
Muth in office
Muth has carried on with these patterns as a Senator.
Like Warren, she has basked in the media spotlight thanks to that uninterrupted Senate floor stunt that led to Pennsylvania Senate Majority Leader Corman yelling at the Lieutenant Governor, then chairing the Senate, to enforce rules allowing him to interject.
As with Warren’s “nevertheless she persisted” moment, the entire thing was largely depicted as an exercise in rank sexism, as if Corman was yelling at Muth when he was yelling at someone else entirely (and that someone was a man).
Muth has also proved to be about as lefty as Warren on policy.
In Americans for Prosperity’s legislative scorecard released earlier this year, Muth received the lowest grade in the Senate, indicating a record of staunch fiscal liberalism. She and three other Democratic senators managed a whole “D” grade.
But it’s not just Muth’s stances on bog standard fiscal issues that line her up with Warren—or indeed AOC. Muth also takes a bunch of specific policy positions on energy and health care that align with the left of the left, and make her look egregiously mis-matched to the district.
She also invokes the term “revolution” frequently to describe the mission she is on as a politician, and in AOC-esque style, she has indicated that the reason people don’t agree with her on policy is because they inhabit a “privilege bubble.”
According to Capitolwire, those are literally the precise terms she used in a Press Club appearance last September.
Per Capitolwire, Muth also:
said she “hates” Gov. Tom Wolf’s “Restore PA” plan, citing a lack of environmental protections, pipeline safety or renewable energy
This is de facto Muth staking out an anti-natural gas position—a very Warren/AOC type move, but one that is…. interesting to take in Pennsylvania. As the Trump campaign was reminding people last week with emails about Biden’s positions on fracking, the natural gas industry is enormous in the Keystone State. It likely employs a bunch of Muth’s constituents.
In that Press Club appearance, Muth also engaged in some stereotypical lefty anti-charter school chatter; of course this is the same person who during her campaign bagged $10,000 from a union leader in a single phone call. Side note: Muth has been praised by Pennsylvania media for not taking money from “special interests.” Taking money from Big Labor is big proof that this is untrue, and it’s just different special interests than those Republicans take money from that she is proverbially in bed with.
But it’s not just on natural gas and arguably charter schools where Muth is likely at odds with her own constituents. She was quoted last year bashing the pharmaceutical industry and effectively talking up the complete elimination of pharmaceutical company profits—talk that sounds like AOC:
“It is criminal how pharmaceutical benefit managers (PBMs), pharmaceutical companies, and insurance companies have operated for years, raising the prices of medications just to make a buck off the backs of patients,” said Muth.
“Health care is human right and medications are a part of health care. Access to medication should be guaranteed to all, patient-centered, and not profit-based.” (emphasis ours)
This is fascinating because around the same time Muth made these remarks, as shown in this screenshot, her district contained and was surrounded by a bunch of pharmaceutical company facilities. How many of Muth’s constituents work in the pharmaceutical industry and are paid because, well, it is “profit-based?” Does she know?
Muth has also continued her pattern of out-of-district support while in office. For example, in 2019, she employed a legislative director who wasn’t local to the district (see here, and here; his $50 contribution lists him as living on Chew Avenue in Philadelphia).
On the subject of former staff, Muth bears some similarity with another big name Washington, D.C. Democrat—Sen. Amy Klobuchar, who is renowned for her high rate of staff turnover and who has been alleged to have been extremely harsh and even abusive to staff.
Muth got testy at a question about her interactions with her staff at that Press Club event last year. Capitolwire noted:
And when asked about a workplace complaint filed against her by a former employee, Muth dismissed it as being filed by a person who she didn’t pick for her staff and who has a political ax to grind against her – hmmmm, that sounds a lot like what one of the “old boys’ club” lawmakers would say.
That seems to be especially the case since that November 2018 Center for Public Integrity piece has her straight-up telling the reporter that a staffer referenced in the piece may soon get the chop, and discussing how she’d already run through two campaign managers:
But in the meantime, the tasks at her headquarters in Exton, Pennsylvania, are more mundane: Muth must take out the office trash and figure out how to get the balky printer to work.“Maybe it’s the Russians,” says Nate Craig, who Muth later whispers may not be destined to last long as her volunteer coordinator. (She’s fired two campaign managers already).
Ah yes, the Russians.
A final note: Much like a bunch of Washington, D.C.’s most high-profile leftists, Muth too is bad at getting legislation on the books. Manifestly, she doesn’t play well with others (sometimes a virtue; in her case, apparently less so).
Capitolwire called her “a first-year…senator with a near-non-existent list of legislative accomplishments” and cited her “acknowledge[ment] she doesn’t have the votes at the moment to accomplish the many changes she’d like to see occur in Pennsylvania and its state government, indicating there might be 20 members in the 253-member General Assembly (she said there’s ‘a solid 10’ in the Senate) that are part of ‘the revolution…’”
To our knowledge, this information has never before been compiled in one place and published, so we will see how or if Muth responds to it. As something of an expose, we didn’t seek comment from her on it.
The bottom line here is, though, Muth is no moderate Democrat, and no matter how anti-Trump her section of Pennsylvania may have become, it’s not enough to make her appear in step with the district.
We’ll have another two years to wait to see whether her constituents decide to keep her around or not (or whether she does throw her hat in the ring for Governor), but for now, it looks like she’s becoming an opposition research treasure trove.
If Trump loses in 2020, anti-GOP sentiment may not be enough to save her in 2022—or propel her forward in a Pennsylvania Democratic Party full of other ambitious politicians.
Originally posted, without some detail required for a national audience, at KeePENNItReal.com.