September 29, 2016

When I write about dark money in Massachusetts I often link to other articles on dark money, mostly my own past MassPoliticsProfs posts. So I thought I would create Your Massachusetts Dark Money Reader with summaries and links to my dark money articles along with others I think are good. I’ll update this and repost over time – most recent articles up top in reverse chronological order - and I’d welcome readers to send me Massachusetts dark money articles I’ve missed. WARNING: not for those who are frightened by what unlimited dark money does to our democracy.

Dark Money Spenders: Boardroom Progressives or Rich People’s Movement? Since we’re not permitted to know which billionaires are funding Great Schools Massachusetts let’s turn to social science theory to help understood their possible motives. Are the hidden funders “Boardroom Progressives” or fronting a “Rich People’s Movement to Untax the One Percent”?

New Campaign Paraphernalia for Great Schools Massachusetts October 6, 2016 A new campaign finance reports shows a new infusion of almost $2 Million in dark money to Great Schools Massachusetts from its parent Families for Excellent Schools of New York. Why spend all that money on TV when new bumper stickers could capture the true spirit of Great Schools’ mysterious patrons?

Billionaires vs. Unions: Not All Money Is Created Equal October 4, 2016. Pro-charters advocates often equate their dark money spending with union spending in opposition to Question 2. But the union spending depends on money contributed in small amounts by thousands of teachers. Great Schools Massachusetts depends on millions of dollars contributed by a handful of hedge fund financiers hidden behind the cloak of dark money Families for Excellent Schools Advocacy.

Breaking: Court Holds FEC Applied Wrong Test to See if Koch-Allied Groups are Breaking Law by Not Registering as Political Committees Rick Hasen, Electionlawblog.org September 19, 2016 America’s leading scholar of election law writes that “There’s still a long road here, but it is possible that the FEC will finally be forced to treat these sham Super PACs as political committees and force disclosure of election-related spending.” The court decision is here.

Democracy is for Adults (and everyone else). September 16, 2016. I argue that anyone who cares about democracy – Republican or Democrat, liberal or conservative, pro or anti charter – should care about what dark money is doing to Massachusetts’ democracy.

New Campaign Song for Great Schools Massachusetts: ‘It’s Up to You, New York, New York’. September 12, 2016. Analysis of OCPF filings for ballot committees shows that Great Schools Massachusetts funding actually comes from dark money outfits based in New York.

The Pat Jehlen-Liam Kerr Debate: A New Paradigm in Politics? September 7, 2016. I reflected upon two rationales given for dark money by Mr. Kerr of dark money Democrats for Education Reform and came away unimpressed.

The checks are pouring into the charter fight, but who’s signing them. Michael Levenson. The Boston Globe. August 20, 2016.  Mr. Levenson does an excellent job running through what we know about the dark money givers in the charter campaign. Unfortunately, while dark money has garnered mentions in a few Globe articles since, the August 20 article is the only comprehensive look at dark money in the paper of record.

Charlie Baker Gives the Democrats a Wedgie. August 16, 2016. I noted that the charter school issue divides Democrats while Governor Baker sits back and enjoys the pro-charter dark money advantage.

Dark Money in the Great Schools MA TV Ad. August 10, 2016. Great Schools MA bought $2.3 million in television ads during the Olympics, but who paid for them? You’ll nevah know, sucka.

The Hidden Money Behind Great Schools: Strategic Grant Partners. August 2, 2016. This post argued that the Great Schools campaign began several years ago, through a Boston non-profit named Strategic Grant Partners. Michael Levenson picked up on that in a Globe article and the Managing Partner of SGPO, Joanna Jacobson wrote a letter to the editor stating that “The idea that Strategic Grant Partners’ giving is tied to ‘dark money’ is outrageous.” I’ll get back to the letter soon.

Some Light on Massachusetts Dark Money? July 11, 2016. Common Cause celebrated a new law on dark money; but every party needs a popper, and that’s me.

Polishing the Apple: Examining Political Spending in New York to Influence Education Policy Common Cause New York June 2015 Dark money hedge funders and unions battle it out in new York privatization fights. The whole purpose of dark money is to hdie the identities of the donors, but Common Cause does a good job ehre of identifying the board members of various dark money fronts.

Good Night, Democracy. May 19, 2016. Dark money front Democrats for Education Reform spends big in a special election senate primary.

Better Read Those Letters, Governor Baker. May 3, 2016. The Republican Party sends out a fund raising letter that looks suspiciously like play for pay.

Dark Money Funding for the Department of Dubious Research. April 22, 2016. Strategic Grant Partners pays for a research study and – voila! – the study reflects negatively on the Boston Teachers Union.

Trust in Politics: Lessons from 1st Suffolk & Middlesex. April 14, 2016. Dark money Democrats for Education Reform and unions both use dark money in a special election for a senate seat. Who can a voter trust?

DFER Brings Dark Money to the 1st Suffolk and Middlesex Senate Race. April 11, 2016. That canvasser at your door isn’t much enthused about the candidate, but is certainly grateful to dark money Democrats for Education Reform for the paycheck.

Charlie Baker: Dark Money, Charter Schools, And Teacher Unions. March 28, 2016. My suspicions were raised when the Great Schools coalition listed Massachusetts Fiscal Alliance, winner of the 2015 Award for Fraud in Massachusetts Politics, as a supporter. I praised the Globe’s coverage and wrote “I hope this inaugurates a sustained effort to shine a light on dark and shadowy big money in politics.” It didn’t.

9 Billionaires Are About to Remake New York’s Public Schools—Here’s Their Story. George Joseph, The Nation March 19, 2015 Fire up your flux capacitor by reading this fine piece of journalism, which details how nine pro-privatization and anti-tax billionaires took over school policy and the New York senate. One of the Nine is Massachusetts’ own Seth Klarman, benefactor of Strategic Grant Partners and the predecessor ballot committee to Great Schools Massachusetts, as of October 7, 2016 mysteriously missing from transparent contributor records.

The Dark Money Olympics. April 7, 2015. I went after the No Boston Olympics folks for not revealing their donors. I have a lot of admiration for what they accomplished though.

Those Rational Non-Voters. September 25, 2014. Dark money campaigns make it rational for voters to just stay home.

What Worries a Political Scientist. April 18, 2014. Dark money, for one thing.

Battle for Democracy: New Populism vs. Dark Money. January 21, 2014. My political science colleagues argue that the fate of our democracy hinges on the contest between liberal populists and right wing dark money.

Teach for America Spinoff helps Alumni Gain Influence Stephen Sawchuk, Education Week January 15, 2014 Leadership for Educational Equity, a 501c3, trains Teach for America alumni how to campaign, and connects them with the money people. LEE’s startup in Massachusetts was funded by Strategic Grant Partners.

Yes It’s Corrupt: Marty Money and Connolly Cash. January 2, 2014. Dark money on both sides of the mayoral contest.

Our Campaign Finance Farce-ocracy. December 19, 2013. Dark money outside spending in the mayor’s race hit #3.8 million, according to the Boston Globe.

AFT Proud. December 13, 2013. The American Federation of Teachers fesses up that it was behind the dark money One Boston, which ran $480,000 worth of TV ads supporting Marty Walsh for mayor.

People’s Pledge: Does It Matter That We Know the Donors? May 9, 2013. Political science research shows that voters will find TV ads less effective if they know the true interests funding them. That’s a big reason for dark money.

Teach for America’s Deep Bench James Ceronsky The American Prospect October 24, 2012 Teach for America spinoff Leadership for Educational Equity trains TFA alumni to run for political office and win. LEE got its start in Massachusetts in 2014 with a $700,000 grant from Strategic Grant Partners.

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 agai

Democrats for Education Reform, dark money, Families for Excellent Schools, Great Schools Massachusetts

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