October 21, 2016

Brendan Lynch photo illustration

Three card monte has been banned from Boston Common but is alive and well in Massachusetts politics, as an effort to keep up with the shifting ballot committees on the pro-charter side shows. But since the dealer is playing with dark money, the suckers called citizens will never turn over the card hiding the $20,000,000.00 bill

The committees have done some twisting and turning but seem to have their own areas of specialization. Before we get to that, let’s run down the latest totals from Dark Money Great Schools of Massachusetts of New York a subsidiary of Dark Money Families for Excellent Schools of New York.

The money is endless. GSM’s October report shows $4,897,460.00 in receipts and $4,626,308.00 expenditures in two weeks. Families for Excellent Schools ponied up $4,550,000.00 of that in dark money. The total so far collected by GSM is $16,820,447.98. It has spent $15,380,158.22. In January the Globe estimated that the race overall would cost $18 million but Great Schools Massachusetts of New York is going to blow by that figure all by itself. By my count the totals so far to GSM from FES, in dark money total, and from New York look like this:

This has been building for years. From July 1, 2013-June 30, 2015 Boston based non-profit Strategic Grant Partners donated $2,135,000.00 to Families for Excellent Schools of New York, GSM’s parent, to “To help launch organization in Massachusetts.” Records at the Secretary of State’s lobbyist office show that Families for Excellent Schools has spent $68,500.00 to lobbyists in the first half of 2016, plus “Operating Expenses” of $420,791.06. The 2015 lobbying report shows that FES spent $88,925.00 on “Total operating expenses,” $48,000.00 to a lobbyist, and $448,842.00 in “Additional Expenses,” most for “strategic consulting” and “grassroots organizing.” Then there is the $543,000.00 in “in-kind” contributions from FES to GSM in the last six months, most of it in staff time.

This is just the stuff I can figure out on the back of an envelope. It’s a shocking assault on our democracy.

Now back to the specialization that defines the various pro-charter committees. Dark Money Great Schools of Massachusetts of New York exists to take dark money from Families for Excellent Schools of New York and some unhidden billionaires like Michael Bloomberg. It also runs on in-kind contributions from Families for Excellent Schools.  Great Schools MA of NY uses FESNY dark money to pay for signature gathering, canvassing, office space, etc. and television ads. Lots and lots of television ads. Also it pays key Baker political consultants like Will Keyser and James Conroy.

There was a Yes on 2 Committee (OCPF # 95346), formed on August 18, 2016 with Frank Perullo as Chairman and Rebecca Rutenberg as Treasurer, both of 137 Lewis Wharf, Boston which houses The Novus Group. Mr. Perullo put $100.00 into the committee and WalMart heir Alice Walton generously matched that donation with her own contribution of $710,000.00. On August 1 Yes on 2 paid Mlm Strategies of Charlestown $3,000.00 for compliance fees and services. That confused me because when I googled Mlm Strategies all I came up with in Boston is a fundraising/compliance/marketing firm at 137 Lewis Wharf, Boston. Back to Yes on 2: on August 8 it paid Novus Group $3,303.00 for “Consulting Services – Survey and Voter File” but it doesn’t look like Yes on 2 took that advice because on September 2 it sent $703,770.29 to the Campaign for Fair Access to Quality Public Schools as a donation. On October 5 Yes on Two dissolved. Alice Walton, ya’ll come back soon now, hear?

Campaign for Fair Access to Quality Public Schools was no doubt glad to have Alice Walton’s $703,770.29 where it commingled with $1,125,000.00 from cousin Jim Walton, also of Arkansas. There were a few other contributions in the $100,000.00 - $150,000.00 range including dark money, but the intake function of Campaign for Fair Access to Quality Public Schools is to bank WalMart money. As to what happens to that money, on August 12 the committee paid Five Corners Strategies $450,000.00 for “campaign management.” Five Corners organizes grass roots campaigns for “Fortune 500 companies, business associations, trade organizations, and national real estate developers.” The Fair Access committee has also paid over $200,000.00 for voter research and mailings to a Seattle firm. Campaign for Fair Access to Quality Public Schools role is to convert WalMart money into AstroTurf.

The Expanding Educational Opportunities ballot committee exists to take corporate money: EMC, Partners Healthcare, State Street Bank, etc. Pat Patriot gives – The Kraft Group of Foxboro kicked in $100,000.00. Then the committee funnels the corporate money directly to Great Schools Massachusetts.

There was a second Yes on 2 (OCPF # 95441) that was filed on October 7, 2016 and dissolved on October 13, 2016. Treasurer Jennifer Lederman of Marblehead was Employee of the Week.

On October 17 a new ballot committee filed, Advancing Obama’s Legacy Ballot Committee. The Chairman was Liam Kerr and the Treasurer a fellow in Brooklyn with a Democrats for Education Reform email address. But Mr. Kerr’s career was shorter than Moonlight Graham’s. The very next day Obama’s Legacy amended its filing to name Mr. Perullo as Chairman. Mr. Kerr is head of Dark Money Democrats for Education Reform Massachusetts of New York. No financial report yet. The next OCPF filing deadline is not until November 7, the day before the election, perfect for any money that really wants to stay dark. Five alarm dark money alert on this one.

The pro-charter campaign is a $20,000,000.00 and running game of three card monte. The dealers are secretive billionaires and the marks are the citizens of Massachusetts.

Louis D. Brandeis: "We must make our choice. We may have democracy, or we may have wealth concentrated in the hands of a few, but we can't have both."

[Full disclosure: as an educator in the UMass system, I am a union member. I write about dark money, and not charter schools. I've never written about charter schools, nor taken a position on them. I have taken a position against plutocracy and in favor of democracy, and thus against dark money. Additional disclosure: a relative is employed by Five Corners Strategy.]

dark money, Families for Excellent Schools, Great Schools Massachusetts

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