- Was Mayor of Braddock, Pennsylvania from 2006-2019
- Was financially supported by his parents until he was nearly 50 years old
- Was elected Lt. Governor of Pennsylvania in 2018
- Favors the release of large numbers of incarcerated criminals, including many murderers serving life sentences
- Ran for a U.S. Senate seat in Pennsylvania in 2022
John Fetterman was born on August 15, 1969. He was raised in York, Pennsylvania by his parents, Karl and Susan, who were teenagers at the time of his birth. John’s father accumulated substantial wealth as the founder and owner of a York-based insurance agency called Kling Insurance, and the younger Fetterman has referred to his upbringing as “cushy.”
In 1991, John Fetterman graduated from Albright College in Reading, Pennsylvania with a bachelor’s degree in finance. He also earned degrees from the University of Connecticut (MBA, 1993) and Harvard University (MPP, 1999). Fetterman’s affluent parents paid for all of his formal education.
From 1993-1995, Fetterman was employed as a risk-management underwriter for a large insurance company called Chubb. From 1995-1997, he worked in Pittsburgh for AmeriCorps, an “independent” yet left-leaning agency of the federal government. And in 2001, Fetterman moved to the western Pennsylvania town of Braddock, where he was paid $33,000 per year to administer a GED life-skills program on behalf of students who dropped out of high school.
Launching a Political Career
In 2005, Fetterman won the Democratic primary for mayor of Braddock by one vote in a three-person field. After subsequently winning the general election that November, he spent the next 13 years (2006-2019) as Braddock’s mayor. Because that part-time job paid a mere $1,800 annually, Fetterman was supported financially by his parents throughout that 13-year period. As the Meadville Tribune reports: “[F]or a long stretch lasting well into his 40s, [Fetterman’s] main source of income came from his parents, who gave him and his family $54,000 in 2015 alone. That was part of the financial support his parents regularly provided when Fetterman’s only paying work was $150 a month as mayor of Braddock, a job he held from his mid-30s until he turned 49. He lived in an industrial-style loft he purchased from his sister for $1 after she [had] paid $70,000 for it six years earlier.”
From 2006 through 2018, Mayor Fetterman missed at least 53 of Braddock’s monthly city council meetings — roughly a third of all the meetings which were held during that period.
Defending Obama’s Smear of Conservatives
In 2008, Fetterman was one of a very few local Democrats who defended Barack Obama’s controversial smear of small-town Americans: “You go into some of these small towns in Pennsylvania,” said Obama, “and like a lot of small towns in the Midwest, the jobs have been gone now for 25 years and nothing’s replaced them. And they fell through the Clinton Administration, and the Bush Administration, and each successive administration has said that somehow these communities are gonna regenerate and they have not. And it’s not surprising then they get bitter, they cling to guns or religion or antipathy to people who aren’t like them or anti-immigrant sentiment or anti-trade sentiment as a way to explain their frustrations.” In response to Obama’s words, Fetterman told the local press: “It [what Obama said] is not patronizing, it is not condescending, it is not elitism. We need hope and we need a plan and we need someone who is not part of the system in Washington.”
Darling of the Left
From 2009 to 2011, Fetterman, despite being a part-time mayor of a mostly obscure rural town, was featured by various publications and news outlets that portrayed him as a charismatic, highly effective, and fascinating political figure. Some examples included feature stories in The New York Times, The Atlantic, The Guardian, CBS News, CNN, The Colbert Report, and Real Time with Bill Maher. In August 2012, the Obama administration honored Fetterman as one of its “Champions of Change,” in recognition of his commitment to “pursuing green urban renewal and economic development.”
Armed with a Shotgun, Fetterman Pursues & Confronts a Black Man Whom He Wrongly Suspected of Gun Violence
During the afternoon of January 26, 2013, Fetterman drove his truck in pursuit of a black man who was running alongside a road — on suspicion that the latter may have been responsible for a series of gunshots which Fetterman had heard moments earlier. Fetterman eventually caught the man and confronted him with a 20-gauge shotgun, only to discover that the man had simply been out for a jog. Fetterman later explained to the media: “I didn’t know if it was a rampage. I didn’t know if it was a drive-by. I didn’t understand. No one could know what was going on at that point, other than a large number of shots were fired from what sounded like a high-powered rifle. At that point, I made a decision as a parent, and as a mayor, to intervene until the first responders could get there and sort it all out.”
Fetterman’s Tattoos & the Issue of Gun Violence
Gun violence has long been among Fetterman’s top concerns as an elected official. One of the most physically imposing figures in all of American politics, the 6-foot-9 Fetterman has Braddock’s zip code – 15104 — tattooed on his left arm, while his right arm bears tattoos of the dates on which nine separate Braddock residents died as a result of street violence during his mayoralty.
Opposition to Fracking & Fossil Fuels
In 2016 Fetterman signed a pledge to promote: (a) a ban on fracking in Pennsylvania, and (b) an end to the granting of new leases for fossil fuel exploration across the United States. He also characterized the fossil fuel industry as a “stain” on Pennsylvania and its natural resources.
Failed U.S. Senate Bid in 2016, Inspired by Bernie Sanders
In 2016 as well, Fetterman ran for a U.S. Senate seat representing Pennsylvania. He cited the socialist Senator Bernie Sanders as the inspiration for his Senate run. “When Sanders ran,” said Fetterman, “that opened up a level of awareness in this state, that the issues I care about can make a viable campaign.” The issue priorities of Fetterman’s Senate campaign paralleled those of Sanders’ Presidential bid at that time: combatting wealth disparities; reversing the decline of U.S.-based manufacturing jobs; implementing police and criminal-justice reform; protecting the legal recognition of same-sex marriages; and ensuring the “absolute protection of the right to safe and legal abortion.” Fetterman went on to lose the Democratic primary in April 2016 to eventual nominee Katie McGinty, capturing just 19.5% of the vote.
Elected As Pennsylvania’s Lieutenant Governor in 2018
In November 2017, Fetterman decided to run for Lieutenant Governor of Pennsylvania. Receiving the endorsement of Bernie Sanders, he secured the Democratic primary with a 37.5% plurality of the vote in a five-person race where he defeated the incumbent Lieutenant Governor, Mike Stack, and three others in May 2018. Among Fetterman’s policy priorities were: the implementation of Medicare-for-all, stricter gun-control laws, a $15 minimum wage statewide, and measures to combat climate change (which he called “an existential threat to our existence here on this planet”). In the November 2018 general election, the ticket of incumbent Governor Tom Wolf and Lt. Gov. candidate Fetterman trounced their Republican counterparts, Scott Wagner and Jeff Bartos, by a margin of 57.8% to 40.7%.
Chairman of the Pennsylvania Board of Pardons
Fetterman officially began his tenure as Lieutenant Governor of Pennsylvania on January 15, 2019. He also became chairman of the Pennsylvania Board of Pardons, a panel that hears requests for pardons and the commutation of criminal sentences statewide.
Naming a Convicted Felon to the Board of Pardons
In April 2019, the Wolf-Fetterman administration announced that convicted felon Brandon Flood, an African American who had recently been pardoned after serving 14 years in prison for a weapons violation, would join the state’s Board of Pardons as its new secretary.
Promoting Leniency Toward Criminals Serving Life Sentences
In November 2019, Fetterman articulated his desire to release more criminals who had been sentenced to life-in-prison without a possibility of parole. Asserting that “we have a once in a lifetime opportunity to address this,” he added: “I think this is about justice. It’s the only thing I care about quite frankly from a personal standpoint, so intensely that I’m willing to do whatever it takes to push every limit and boundary, to make sure we don’t have hundreds if not thousands needlessly dying in prison.”
Appointing Two Convicted Murderers As Advisers to Prison Inmates in Pennsylvania
In November 2019 as well, Fetterman hired commuted felons George Trudel and Naomi Blount — who had spent a combined total of 68 years in prison for murder convictions — to serve as advisors helping prison inmates across the state of Pennsylvania navigate the process of applying for commutation of their sentences. Celebrating the work prospects of Trudel and Blount, Fetterman said: “This is the first time in the history of commutations in Pennsylvania, and possibly the nation, that former offenders will fill these roles. No one is more suitable for these positions than two people who have gone through the process and who have valuable institutional knowledge. We’re grateful to have them on the team.”
Casting Many Votes in Favor of the Commutation of Prison Sentences
In public hearings throughout 2019, the Pennsylvania Board of Pardons voted on 41 potential commutations of prison sentences — the largest number of such votes in decades. Fetterman voted to commute the sentences in 30 of those 41 cases, and to deny commutation just 11 times. In January 2020, Fetterman acknowledged that whenever he was unsure about the merits of an individual’s commutation application, he generally gave the applicant the benefit of the doubt: “Only [Governor Wolf’s] pen can free an individual, and any one of ours [members of the Board of Pardons] can doom it. I say, err on the side of mercy and let the governor decide.”
On 27 separate occasions between 2019 and August 2022, Fetterman was the only member of the five-person Pennsylvania Board of Pardons to cast a vote in favor of a pardon or the commutation of a sentence.
Voting to Free a Convicted Murderer Serving Life in Prison
In 2019, Fetterman, in his role as Pennsylvania’s Board of Pardons chairman, voted to free Charles Goldblum, who was serving a life-in-prison sentence for having: (a) participated in the killing of a man named George Wilhelm in 1976 by stabbing him 26 times with garden shears, and (b) subsequently hired a hitman to kill Clarence Miller, Goldblum’s accomplice in Wilhelm’s murder. Fetterman’s vote went squarely against the wishes of Wilhelm’s family.
The Board of Pardons ultimately ruled in favor freeing Goldblum, on grounds that he had not been the primary assailant in Wilhelm’s murder, but merely an accomplice. When Goldblum was released from prison in 2021, Fetterman, claiming that the former convict was “not a threat to public safety,” remarked that he (Fetterman) was “happy that he’s [Goldblum is] going to be going home to his family.”
Aiming to Free Additional econd-Degree-Murder Convicts Who Were “Deserving and Rehabilitated”
Also in his role as chairman of the Pennsylvania Board of Pardons, Fetterman in 2019 commissioned two reports about the 1,166 people statewide who were serving life-without-parole sentences for second-degree murder. During a subsequent press conference about one of those reports, he said: “I hope that it could lead to a conversation that would free close to 1,200 people of a legacy that never made sense.” Then, in May 2021 Fetterman asserted that mercy “must be a partner to justice,” and that freeing “deserving and rehabilitated” second-degree murderers from prison would provide “massive” savings for taxpayers. On a previous occasion, he had advocated for the termination of life sentences for people who had been convicted of second-degree murder but had not personally “pull[ed] the trigger” of the firearm used in the killing.
Calling for “Police Reform” & “Systemic Change” in the Criminal Justice System
After the infamous death of George Floyd in May 2020, which set off a summer of violent riots led by Black Lives Matter and Antifa, Fetterman published an op-ed calling for “police reform” and “systemic change” in the Pennsylvania criminal-justice system. Some key excerpts:
- “We must acknowledge that inaction [by police] can be an appropriate response for an infraction. Sandra Bland, Eric Garner and George Floyd are examples in which there was no threat to public safety or to the safety of the officers. However, those officers made the decision to use unnecessary and excessive force, which resulted in the deaths of all three.”
- “We must fall on the side of de-escalation every time, and the prevailing attitude must shift to one of service, where residents feel like they are partners with the police.”
- “Police need to dress for the job they want. If they show up as an occupying force in riot gear, it is far more likely they will get a riot. When police are demilitarized and approach a situation with service to the community, we will get more humane outcomes.”
- “I support a measure, introduced by Reps. Summer Lee and Ed Gainey in 2019, to define ‘deadly use of force.’ House Bill 1664 would allow police to use deadly force onlyin situations where they or another face imminent threat of death or serious bodily injury.”
- “[T[he conversation on police reform … must include a reexamination of our entire criminal justice system. We should be repealing mandatory sentencing and reducing overpolicing (which includes finally legalizing adult-use marijuana).”
- “For generations, the issue of police brutality has been just one symptom of a system that rounds up Black and Brown people and throws away the key.”
Dismissing Claims That Voter Fraud May Have Marred the 2020 Presdential Election
In a November 2020 interview with Teen Vogue, Fetterman downplayed any possibility that a substantial amount of voter fraud may have occurred in Pennsylvania during the recently completed presidential election in which Joe Biden had defeated Donald Trump. “The one instance of [alleged] voter fraud in Pennsylvania was a Republican in Luzerne County, who tried to vote for his dead mom,” said Fetterman. He also stated: “I didn’t hear anyone on the Trump side complaining about election integrity in 2016. And now you are in a position where the media is acknowledging someone who is claiming election fraud from the world’s biggest microphone, without any proof. To me that is the metaphorical equivalent of yelling fire in a crowded theater. That is not protected speech.”
Lauding President Biden As a Champion for Union Workers
In the same November 2020 interview with Teen Vogue, Fetterman affirmed that President-elect Biden “understands” the “union way of life,” and that “as president, he is going to make sure that that’s sacred, and that’s defended.”
Launching a Campaign for the 2022 U.S. Senate Race in Pennsylvania
By January 2021, Fetterman had reportedly raised more than $500,000 for a potential run for one of Pennsylvania’s two U.S. Senate seats in the upcoming 2022 midterm elections. The following month, he officially announced his campaign for that seat: “I’m running for the United States Senate for the same reason I ran for Lieutenant Governor in 2018 and Mayor of Braddock 16 years ago, because I believe in a set of core truths. I believe in the dignity of work and the dignity of a paycheck…. I believe the union way of life is sacred. I believe in healthcare as a fundamental, basic human right. I believe in environmental justice, I believe our criminal justice system needs a significant overhaul. I believe that the war on drugs needs to stop and we need to legalize marijuana across this country. I believe that the LGBTQIA community deserves the same rights and protections that the rest of us enjoy in this country.”
By October 2021, Fetterman had raised $9.3 million for his Senate campaign.
Fetterman’s Senate Campaign Platform
Fetterman’s 2022 Senate bid featured the following major issue positions, as articulated on his official campaign website:
- Delivering Criminal Justice Reform: “Our criminal justice system is broken. I believe in the power of a second chance, and for years, I have advocated for reforms to our too often unforgiving and vindictive justice system. As Lieutenant Governor, I have fought hard for second chances for deserving Pennsylvanians and to free the wrongfully convicted through my work as Chair of the Board of Pardons.”
- Building a Humane, Safe, and Secure Immigration System: “We … must work to ensure that our immigration system is humane. I support commonsense immigration reforms that will restore our country’s legacy as a nation built by immigrants…. I will also fight for a pathway to citizenship for frontline workers, small business owners, and young people who have only known this country as their home.”
- Protecting Women’s Reproductive Freedom: “Right-wing extremists have been hellbent on rolling back abortion access since the ink was barely dry on the Roe v. Wade And in the decades since, the GOP has worked to do away with this fundamental right with extreme laws aimed at banning abortions without exceptions for rape or incest and even putting women who seek abortions and doctors who perform them behind bars. As your senator, I will vote to enshrine access to safe and legal abortion into federal law by passing the Women’s Health Protection Act, because deciding how and when to become a mother is a decision that should always be made by a woman and her doctor — not politicians. I will also stand up to attacks on Planned Parenthood, and fight to repeal the Hyde Amendment.”
- Guaranteeing Health Care: “I believe that health care is a basic, fundamental human right, not a privilege. But health care in America is far too expensive and convoluted. In the richest nation on earth, I believe we have a moral duty to guarantee quality health care coverage for every American, and end the disgusting practice of corporations profiting from people’s health and well-being…. I will also support efforts to lower the Medicare eligibility age to 60 while expanding its benefits to include vision, hearing, and dental care.”
- Legalizing Cannabis: “Weed should be legal, nationwide — for jobs, justice, veterans, farmers, and revenue. It’s far past time we end the failed war on drugs and let go of this bizarre superstition and criminalization of a plant…. In the Senate, I’ll work to end the war on drugs by fighting to deschedule marijuana, expunge the records of those convicted of nonviolent marijuana offenses, and prevent the monopolization of this vibrant new industry. We have to end the national patchwork of marijuana laws that hurts patients, business owners, and the economy and move our views on this subject out of the Stone Age.”
- Securing LGBTQIA+ Rights: “I have consistently stood with the LGBTQIA+ community. Back in 2013, when same-sex marriages were still banned in Pennsylvania, I was the first and only elected official in western Pennsylvania to solemnize same-sex weddings. This was one of my proudest moments as mayor. I officiated more than two dozen before the ban was finally overturned. I believe everyone deserves equal protection under the law, and with extreme Republicans trying to pass legislation that discriminates against LGBTQIA+ Americans and targets transgender kids to score cheap political points, we need to fight back…. In the Senate, I will vote to finally pass the Equality Act, which would ensure that civil rights laws — like protections against discrimination in employment and housing — apply to sexual orientation and gender identity. I will also support efforts to end the hateful practice of so-called ‘conversion therapy,’ and fight to strengthen [anti-harassment] policies on school and college campuses.”
- Taking On Crime: “I want what an overwhelming majority of Americans, including the majority of gun owners, want – which is common sense gun safety measures. We need universal background checks, red flag laws, and more proactive efforts to get illegal guns off our streets.”
- Promoting American Energy + Building a Clean Energy Future: “I believe that climate change is an existential threat, and we need to transition to clean energy as quickly as possible. But we must do it in a way that preserves the union way of life for the thousands of workers currently employed or supported by the natural gas industry in Pennsylvania and the communities where they live. We need to make sure that as we transition we honor and uphold the union way of life for workers across Pennsylvania, and create thousands of good-paying union jobs in clean energy in the process.”
- Safeguarding Our Democracy: “Last year, I became one of the first candidates in the country to call for abolishing the filibuster for a reason: it stands in the way of getting things done for Pennyslvanians. This includes protecting our democracy from those who simply want to throw out election results they don’t like…. In the Senate, I will fight like hell to expand voting rights and push for reforms that get big money out of politics and prevent politicians from picking their voters through partisan gerrymandering. I will also vote to ban Members of Congress from holding or trading stocks, because lawmakers should not be making profits off of the same companies they are supposed to be regulating, based on closed-door information that isn’t available to the public.”
- Preparing the Next Generation: “In Washington, I’ll fight for universal pre-k and childcare, and I’ll make sure our public schools have the funding they need so our teachers aren’t shouldering so much of a burden. I will also work to increase investments in career and technical programs to prepare young adults for successful and in-demand careers in critical industries. And for students who do opt to attend college, to make sure the cost isn’t a barrier I’ll support efforts to make community colleges tuition-free and reduce the burden of student loan debt that too many borrowers are experiencing right now.”
- Fighting Inflation & Lowering Costs: “First and foremost, we have to tackle the corporate greed that’s been contributing to the sky high prices. In the Senate, I will fight for a fair tax code that ensures the wealthiest Americans and corporations don’t get away with scamming the system, and finally pay their fair share…. And … it’s time we crack down on the big oil companies who are making record profits while jacking up prices for all of us. Instead of raising costs at the pump, these oil companies should be working to help drive prices down, even if it means their CEOs make a little bit less.”
- Promoting American Energy & Building a Clean Energy Future: “Across the Commonwealth, Pennsylvanians are paying astronomical prices at the pump. But the truth is, prices wouldn’t be this high if it weren’t for the greed of oil companies. While we are getting squeezed, companies like Shell, Chevron, BP and ExxonMobil are raking in record-breaking profits. It’s gross and it’s hurting Pennsylvania families…. I believe that climate change is an existential threat, and we need to transition to clean energy as quickly as possible. But we must do it in a way that preserves the union way of life for the thousands of workers currently employed or supported by the natural gas industry in Pennsylvania and the communities where they live.”
Calling for Elimination of the Senate Filibuster in Order to Ban Rifle Ownership & Open-Carry Laws
During a video interview on April 9, 2022, Fetterman articulated his wish to eliminate the Senate filibuster rule, so that Democrats would be empowered to force the passage of legislation banning not only the sale of rifles, but the “ownership” of such weapons as well. “That’s one of the main reasons why I called for the elimination of the filibuster,” he said. “Eighty to ninety percent of Americans support the elimination — excuse me — banning assault rifle ownership and common sense gun control legislation.”
On April 11, 2022, Fetterman stated: “I’ve always supported a ban to the assault rifle ownership. We should not have weapons of war in the hands of civilians.” “I have seen with my own eyes at the scenes in my community,” he added, “what a military grade round does to the human body. And we have no need for civilians to own those kind of weapons.” At the same April 11 event, Fetterman explained that the elimination of the filibuster rule would also be useful to the cause of terminating open-carry laws. “The truth is if a state that you’re in has open carry laws, there’s nothing that you, as senator, can do directly,” he lamented. “That’s the truth. Some of these states have open carry laws and it’s perfectly legal and a United States senator can’t directly intervene and change that. But what we can do is eliminate the filibuster and pass comprehensive gun reform legislation federally that supersedes and eliminates the option to have open carry.”
Fetterman’s Tax Policy Proposals
Fetterman also backed a wide array of proposed tax hikes. Specifically, he:
- supported Governor Tom Wolf’s 2021 budget proposal to increased Pennsylvania taxes by more than $6 billion annually;
- supported Senator Elizabeth Warren’s call for a wealth tax, which she claimed would generate trillions of dollars in revenue;
- supported the imposition of soda excise taxes, which he characterized as a “brilliant” idea; and
- condemned Senate Democrats for only aiming to raise the corporate tax rate by 4 percent.
Fetterman’s History of Failing to Pay His Own Taxes
Notwithstanding his frequently articulated calls for tax hikes on Americans of all income brackets, Fetterman had a considerable history of failing to pay the taxes that he himself was responsible for. As WTAE Action News 4 of Pittsburg reported on April 7, 2016:
“Action News Investigates has learned that Braddock Mayor John Fetterman, a candidate for the U.S. Senate, has a history of unpaid taxes. Court records show dozens of tax liens filed against Fetterman and an organization he leads.…
“Over the years, Fetterman and a community group he heads called Braddock Redux have been hit with tax liens totaling $25,000.
“Fetterman owned houses in North Braddock until he sold them in the last few years. Court records reveal liens totaling $11,916 were filed against properties owned by Fetterman….
“Braddock Redux owns a former church and other properties. In 2008, Allegheny County sued Braddock Redux for failing to pay $2,376 in taxes and penalties. The suit was settled in 2012 after Braddock Redux appealed the assessment and the county reduced it. In total, Braddock Redux was hit with $13,214 in tax liens for the church and other properties including rowhouses, a house and a warehouse.”
Naming a Friend of Cop-Killer & Marxist Icon Mumia Abu Jamal As Secretary of the Pennsylvania Board of Pardons
In January 2022, Fetterman selected his former campaign political director, Celeste Trusty — a onetime volunteer for the Pennsylvania Innocence Project and a self-described “friend” to the Marxist icon, former Black Panther, and convicted cop-killer Mumia Abu Jamal — to become Secretary of the Pennsylvania Board of Pardons. Like Fetterman, Trusty has called for the abolition of mandatory life-without-parole prison sentences for defendants convicted of first- and second-degree murders.
Fetterman Suffers a Stroke but Continues with His Senate Campaign
On May 13, 2022, Fetterman suffered a stroke that caused him to subsequently have problems with word retrieval and speech. He nevertheless pressed forward with his Senate campaign against Republican opponent Mehmet Oz, the famous physician known to television audiences as Dr. Oz.
Fetterman Wins the Democratic Primary for Senate
In the May 17, 2022 Democratic primary, Fetterman won his party’s nomination for the Senate race, capturing nearly 60% of all votes.
Voting to Commute the Sentence of Convicted Killer Wayne Covington
In June 2022, Fetterman was the lone member of the Pennsylvania Board of Pardons to vote in favor of commuting the prison sentence of Wayne Covington — a man who in 1970 had pleaded guilty to shooting an 18-year-old over money that he (Covington) subsequently used to purchase heroin. Fetterman voted in favor of commutation despite pleas by the victim’s surviving family members that he not do so.
Group of Sheriffs Express Concern About Fetterman’s Approach to Criminal Justice
On July 28, 2022, thirteen Pennsylvania sheriffs issued a letter to Fetterman to express their “concerns” over his criminal-justice policy positions. Specifically, the sheriffs opposed Fetterman’s support for decriminalizing all drugs; his advocacy for the demilitarization of police; his calls for the release of one-third of Pennsylvania inmates; his preference for lowering bail for rioters and arsonists; and his endorsement of Larry Krasner, the George Soros-backed District Attorney of Philadelphia. The sheriffs also articulated their concern that Fetterman’s approach to criminal justice would exacerbate Pennsylvania’s already-escalating crime rates.