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December 14, 2016

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Democrats Using Republican Money for Education Reform Now to Advance Obama’s Legacy on Charter Schools could be my favorite dark money front. It leads into a tangled web of dark-money ballot committees that would make a seasoned money launderer blush.

I realized this while thinking about the Advancing Obama's Legacy on Charter Schools Ballot Committee, which sprung up in the waning days of the charter schools ballot question campaign. Two men, Liam Kerr and Frank Perullo, are at this web’s center. Mr. Kerr heads Democrats for Education Reform Massachusetts, and he also appeared on an Oct. 17 filing as chairman for the Advancing Obama’s Legacy committee. The next day, the group replaced Mr. Kerr with Mr. Perullo, a political consultant who channels Alice Walton’s Walmart inheritance. By Oct. 25, Mr. Kerr was back as Advancing Obama's Legacy spokesman, announcing that the group would spend $500,000.00 to shore up diving support among Democrats.

Democrats for Education Reform Massachusetts stayed out of this year’s fight over Question 2. But its parent organization, Education Reform Now Advocacy, slid $155,000.00 to Advancing Obama’s Legacy.  That was a trifle though because most of the Advancing Obama’s Legacy committee’s money came from another ballot committee called Campaign for Fair Access to Quality Public Schools.

Who provided 80 percent of the money for Fair Access to Quality Public Schools? If you’re thinking low pay and lousy benefits then you’re picking up the trail— Walmart heir Jim Walton gave the group $1.1 million in September. And cousin Alice Walton gave $710,000.00 to the Yes on 2 ballot committee, which funneled $703,770.89 over to Fair Access. It shuffled the rest to entities controlled by the ubiquitous and well-compensated Mr. Perullo, who also consults for — you will never guess — Democrats for Education Reform. Fair Access eventually lavished $567,000 on Advancing Obama’s Legacy.

Confused yet? That’s by design. “Advancing Obama’s Legacy” may sound like a Democratic group, but it was funded by Republicans.

To be fair, Ms. Walton’s partisan giving has been mixed, according to records collected by Opensecrets.org. She has given $496,000.00 to Republicans and $344,917.00 to Democrats since 2001. But the Democratic contributions went mostly to state parties in 2015 and 2016. No analysis is needed on Jim Walton — he gives almost exclusively to Republicans, and gives bigly.

Every year I choose one lucky winner of the Award for Fraud in Massachusetts Politics. This year’s award will have a new name and exciting art work, if my neighbor ever finishes the drawing, and I need to decide the winner soon. You have to respect the defending champion, the Massachusetts Fiscal Alliance. But Democrats Using Republican Money for Education Reform Now to Advance Obama’s Legacy on Charter Reform is a definite contender, if only I can figure out where to deliver the handsome trophy.

Democrats for Education Reform, Advancing Obama's Legacy on Charter Schools

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