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November 02, 2016

While we’ve been trying to guess whose money is funding the Yes on 2 campaign, the International Business Times figured it out: they’re using the teachers own money against them. Add in funding from the American taxpayer and you have quite a kitty. As W.C. Fields counseled, “Never give a sucker an even break, or smarten up a chump.”

A recent story from International Business Times titled Wall Street Firms Make Money from Teachers’ Pensions – And Fund Charter Schools Fight. began:

When Massachusetts public school teachers pay into their pension fund each month, they may not realize where the money goes. Wall Street titans are using some of the profits from managing that money to finance an education ballot initiative that many teachers say will harm traditional public schools.

IBT traced $778,000.00 to committees favoring Question 2 from executives at eight financial firms that manage pension money for the Massachusetts Pension Reserves Investment Management Board (MassPRIM), which invests about $61 billion dollars, including the pension money for up to 150,000 active and retired teachers. There are tens of millions of dollars each year in management fees that flow to the investment firms.

Several of the PRIM connected money managers are among those who have contributed millions to Strategic Grant Partners, the Boston non-profit that provided Families for Excellent Schools with $2,150,000.00 in Massachusetts startup money. Some of those managers are no doubt among the dark money contributors to FES too - just ask them, they'll never tell you. This year Families for Excellent Schools has sent $13,125,000.00 in dark money to the Great Schools Massachusetts ballot committee as of the October 20 OCPF report.

Teachers are funding both sides of the charters fight: in favor of Question 2 with pension management fees, and in opposition with union dues.

But why limit yourself to the narrow universe of teachers’ pensions when you can tap the hard working American taxpayer.

The $2,150,000.00 that went from Strategic Grant Partners, an Internal Revenue code 501(c)(3) charity to Families for Excellent Schools Inc. (also a 501(c)(3)) came from tax deductible contributions. IRC 501(c)(3) non-profits are barred from most political activities but may engage in educational efforts. Families for Excellent Schools Inc.’s educational engagements were well geared to moving charters through the legislature or into position for the ballot fight.

Even the best slip up, however. Here are some lines from Great Schools Massachusetts’ October 20 OCPF report.

Families for Excellent Schools Advocacy Inc. is a 501(c)(4) and may engage in some political activities. But Families for Excellent Schools Inc. is a 501(c)(3) and may not. So those last two checks for $350,000.00 and $50,000.00 are questionable. This is why John Fish’s 501(c)(3) charity had to get back the $250,000.00 it gave to a Hillary Clinton SuperPAC. Illegal.

A mere trifle for OPM Industries.

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.]

Strategic Grant Partners, Great Schools Massachusetts, Families for Excellent Schools

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