A Pennsylvania mom connected to the conservative so-called “parental rights” movement is facing criminal charges of assault, harassment, and furnishing minors with alcohol, according to a case filed in October and reported on by the USA Today Network’s PhillyBurbs. Bucks County’s Clarice Schillinger, a 2022 GOP candidate for lieutenant governor, was charged with punching a teenager during a late September birthday party for her daughter at her home in Doylestown. Schillinger’s lawyer denied the charges and said she would go to court.
According to documents in the case, including an affidavit of probable cause, Schillinger was hosting her daughter’s 17th birthday party on September 29 with 20 teenage guests. The celebration took place in a basement with a well-stocked bar. Witnesses told authorities that Schillinger allegedly poured liquor for the minors, asked them to take a shot with her, and played beer pong with them. Under Pennsylvania’s state law, it is illegal to give alcohol to a minor.
The documents also state that Schillinger’s boyfriend at the time “allegedly grabbed a 16-year-old by the neck for intervening in a fight between the couple and hit a 15-year-old in the face during an argument over football,” the PhillyBurbs reports. “According to the allegations in court papers, her intoxicated mother also punched the older teen in the eye and chased him around the kitchen island. Police said they had cellphone recordings of some of these reported events.” Footage showed that Schillinger “lunged toward” a guest, who told the police she punched him three times without injuring him, according to the affidavit.
This is the latest scandal involving a champion of the “parental rights movement.” My colleague Kiera Butler recently reported on the downfall of Christian Ziegler, then-chairman of the GOP in Florida, after allegations that he raped a woman who had a sexual encounter with him and his wife, Sarasota school board member Bridget Ziegler, a co-founder of the parental rights juggernaut Moms for Liberty.
During the pandemic, Schillinger started the Keeping Kids in School political action committee to support school board candidates advocating for reopening schools. She then helped found the Back to School PA PAC with Paul Martino, a Doylestown venture capitalist and vocal activist at school board meetings. As I wrote back in November, Martino and his PAC played an outsized role in bankrolling conservative candidates for the 2021 local school board elections across Pennsylvania:
Martino funneled thousands of dollars to as many as 50 different smaller PACs across the state supporting candidates who opposed school closures through the Back to School PA PAC, which he branded as single-issue and nonpartisan. Most school board contenders who benefited from his investments turned out to be Republicans and, in some cases, espoused conservative culture war agendas far beyond reopening schools.
He’s stepping up his game. The Back to School PAC is now an openly conservative super PAC with a mission to “stop the liberal left.” This year, Martino has already contributed more than $230,000 to the Bucks Families for Leadership PAC, which bankrolls Republican candidates, including his wife, Aarati Martino. Bucks Families for Leadership has also paid for a website decrying Smith and the other Democrats as “political arsonists posing as firefighters.” (In response to a request for an interview, Paul Martino wrote, “In complete transparency, I have trouble getting fair treatment in the press on these issues.” He didn’t respond to a follow-up email with questions.)
In the 2023 elections, however, the conservative candidates for school boards suffered resounding defeats in Pennsylvania and beyond. In Central Bucks, all five Democratic party contenders running as the CBSD Neighbors United slate won their races and flipped the board from a Republican supermajority. Upon taking control of the board two years earlier, the conservatives had fully engaged in the culture wars, passing a series of controversial policies to challenge and remove books from school libraries and bar “advocacy activities” on behalf of LGBTQ students. More recently, they championed a measure to “separate athletic teams on the basis of sex.”
The PhillyBurbs found in court records that this wasn’t the first report of underage partying at Schillinger’s rented home. In another alleged incident, the police saw beer cans around the property and several teenagers darting into the house. When they tried talking to Schillinger she was “intoxicated and uncooperative,” according to an affidavit. She is scheduled for a hearing in January. “Ms. Schillinger has dedicated her life to public service,” her attorney, Matthew Brittenburg, said in a statement to the publication. “Additionally, she has always been a law-abiding citizen. Ms. Schillinger looks forward to the opportunity to defend against these allegations.”