In a recent Facebook post, right-wing multi-millionaire Paul Martino lauded far-right Pennridge school board candidate Josh Hogan’s re-branding of his “Reopen Bucks” organization as “Protect Bucks,” stating:
“It [this rebranding] needs people who are willing to defend it from outsiders who want “settle” it from out of town (go read about progressive pioneering). It needs to be protected from outsiders [aka liberals] who want to change the great schools we have. It needs to be protected from the fake hoaxes that attempt to discredit its school board.”
The premise of Martino’s argument is that it’s wrong for “outsiders” to exert political influence over areas they are not native to. To emphasize this point, not only does Martino rail against liberals moving to Bucks, later in the thread he also criticizes Solebury Democrats for bringing in campaign workers from other areas.
Martino knows a lot about exerting political influence. In July 2021, he committed $500,000 to a newly formed PAC, Back to School PA, that made $10,000 donations to 50 slates of candidates across the state. His ostensible reason for forming this PAC was to open schools during the pandemic, but, “coincidentally” the large majority of candidates he supported were Republican (70 percent according to Philly Mag). In Central Bucks School District, he was successful in getting 3 of his 5 supported candidates elected, two of whom are currently or were previously part of the far-right group Moms For Liberty.
Despite his own political endeavors, Martino’s recent post makes it exceedingly clear that he believes that only those who are native to an area have the right to exert influence over local politics.
Let’s leave aside the plausible accusations of bigotry of this viewpoint for a moment and focus on the hypocrisy.
While Martino did grow up in neighboring Montgomery County, he and his wife (who is from Alabama) moved to the San Francisco area. At some point, they decided to bring their family back to Pennsylvania to, in his words, “escape the STUPID LEFTIST policies that ruined the city.”
Nobody is arguing that Martino or his wife should not have moved to traditionally liberal San Francisco (despite being Republican), and nobody is arguing their right to move to Bucks County (where neither one of them grew up). One of the beautiful things about this country is our freedom to live where we please. Martino himself enjoys this freedom, but for some reason, he wants to take it away from the rest of us.
But, there is an even more alarming hypocrisy embedded in Martino’s post. Remember the 2021 election when Martino created the Back to School PA PAC and dumped hundreds of thousands of dollars into school board elections across the state? The right-wing website Broad and Liberty states that Martino’s PAC financed 182 school board members in 55 school districts across Pennsylvania. According to his own logic, Martino was the dangerous “outsider” in every single county besides Bucks.
And it’s not just Pennsylvania politics that Martino influences. His PAC has broadened its focus to encompass the entire country. As its website attests, Back to School USA “is taking the fight directly to the liberal teachers’ unions and special interest groups that are responsible for indoctrinating our children.”
Turns out it’s fine for “outsiders” to cast their web of political influence around the country, as long as those outsiders agree with Martino’s conservative, if not reactionary, worldview.
So, who exactly would be kept out of Bucks County if Martino were to have his way? While he insists he is specifically referring to “white liberals,” the numbers tell a different story. For instance, research from Princeton University shows that 80-90 percent of Black Americans identify as Democrats. The statistics on most other marginalized communities also heavily lean left with 64 percent of Latinos and 50 percent of LGBTQ voters (15 percent are Republicans, 22 percent are Independents, and 13 percent said they identify with another party or did not know which party they most identify with.) registered as Democrats. In fact, if Martino were to achieve his goal of painting Bucks Republican red, it’s likely that most of the County would be uneducated white males and Evangelical Christians, both of whom vote reliably Republican.
So, why is it acceptable for Martino to influence elections across the state while, according to him, the rest of us don’t even have the right to move to Bucks County unless we’re going to vote Republican?
I asked Martino himself this question on that same Facebook thread, but, since he didn’t respond, I can only speculate on the answer. Could it be that Martino believes his wealth makes him superior to the rest of us? Could it be that he believes his status as a white male entitles him to more rights? Maybe it’s just that he’s so sure his worldview is the correct one, he thinks it’s his duty to push it on all of us?
Or maybe it’s just as simple as what Martino himself told Philly Mag, “If there’s one thing you’re learning about me this whole time, it’s that Martino doesn’t like to get told what to do.”
When you’re at the polls this November, remember that the Central Bucks Forward slate (backed by Moms for Liberty) is funded by a man who is blatantly exerting his political influence across the state and country while demanding the rest of us “stay in our lane.”
Remember that progress and diversity are things to be celebrated, not protected from. Remember that Martino is the “outsider” he has been trying to warn us about.