December 05, 2016

Credit: Bruce Berrien

When ballot committees first filed with Office of Campaign and Political Finance in September the New York-centric funding of the pro-charters campaign inspired A New Campaign Song for Great Schools Massachusetts: ‘It’s Up to You New York, New York.’ The Big Apple based team was hurtling along until it encountered actual Massachusetts voters chanting “Yankees suck! Yankees suck!”

Since Election Day we’ve had yet another OCPF filing period so let’s bring everything up to date across the pro-charter committees (they all had their own givers and campaign roles, almost like some Mastermind was coordinating it all).

Great Schools Massachusetts of New York received $18,465,500.00 in dark money contributions, most from Families for Excellent Schools of New York. GSM also benefited from $901,732.16 in in-kind contributions, again mostly from FES (and some from Education Reform Now Advocacy, also of New York and the funder of Democrats for Education Reform). The great bulk of that was in staff time. So the total of the dark money utilized by GSM was $19,367,213.16 and you may be thinking, “What? We’re not worth a $20 million investment?” But we are because drop down to where I recognize the $2,150,000.00 Strategic Grant Partners of Boston (not New York) shipped to Families for Excellent Schools “To help launch organization in Massachusetts.” Never shows up on OCPF reports – it’s deep dark. And we don’t have to get into the nearly $1 Million in lobbying expenditures by Families for Excellent Schools recorded with the Secretary of State; just assume for now that is part of the SGP gift.

Back to the table. Campaign for Fair Access to Quality Public Schools got $250,000.00 in dark money but that was chump change. The Fair Access Committee was mostly a conduit for Walton family millions shippin’ up from Arkansas. Expanding Educational Opportunities was all Massachusetts corporate money (only $575,000.00, you cheapies) that was then transferred over to Great Schools Massachusetts. That leaves us with Advancing Obama’s Legacy on Charter Schools which got most of its money from the Waltons’ Fair Access Committee but also got $155,000.00 in dark money from Education Reform Now Advocacy. So the Obama’s Legacy Committee was a dark money front for a dark money front for a dark money front. Oh Democrats for Education Reform Massachusetts of New York, why can’t the crooked be made straight? I promise to untangle ERNA/DFER/Obama’s Legacy as soon as possible, and sooner if someone will donate a quality bottle of bourbon.

So the total dark money for the charter school committees stands at $21,922,231.16 but it’s going to go up because Strategic Grant Partners Form 990 tax returns for last year and the ongoing fiscal year are not public yet. I can’t wait to see how much SGP lavished on Families for Excellent Schools in the past two years.

Here’s something I didn’t understand until just recently. Some of the dark money came not from IRC 501c4 organizations but from 501c3 charities. Both shield their contributors but 501c3 contributions are also tax deductible. I’ve already identified these moneys so don’t double count but here they are:

Suppose that one person contributed that total and would get the entire tax deduction. That benefactor would be someone like jj, and klarman and in the top tax bracket of 39.6 percent. So our charitable donor would get a hefty deduction and you, the American taxpayer, would accept the remaining burden. But since you are already picking up the tab for non-taxpayers like Donald Trump and General Electric, this is a trifle. Never give a sucker an even break, or smarten up a chump.

So Question 2 goes down and somewhere the Mastermind is thinking “I coulda been a contender.” Or Secretary of Education, instead of Betsy DeVos.

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 other things). I don't write about charter schools, nor have I taken a position on them. I have taken a position against plutocracy and in favor of democracy, and thus against dark money.]

Great Schools Massachusettts, dark money, Families for Excellent Schools, Strategic Grant Partners

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