On Monday David Dayen of The Intercept broke a story on Puerto Rico with vast implications for Massachusetts politics, We Can Finally Identify One of the Largest Holders of Puerto Rican Debt. The debt holder is Boston’s Seth Klarman of hedge fund titan The Baupost Group. Mr. Klarman has had a terrible time keeping his secrets lately: he was one of the Massachusetts plutocrats hiding behind the now banned-in-Boston Families for Excellent Schools. That is, he was hiding until the Office of Campaign and Political Finance forced FES to rectify its violations of Massachusetts law and come clean about its donors.
Here is the money line from Mr. Dayen’s article: “Seth Klarman, owns nearly a billion dollars of Puerto Rican debt, purchased under a shell company subsidiary and hidden from public scrutiny.”
“[P]urchased under a shell company subsidiary and hidden from public scrutiny” has a certain ring to it, don’t you think? So in the spirit of disclosure in which Mr. Klarman now finds himself uncomfortably swathed, I offer Your Dark Money Reader, Special Edition: Seth Klarman.
Yes, OCPF forced FES to reveal its secret contributors and leading the pack was Seth Klarman, with $3 million in dark money. FES list of dark money donors here.
Families for Excellent Schools is a favorite front for Mr. Klarman; he and a small group of billionaires funded its efforts in New York, as The Nation’s George Joseph showed in 9 Billionaires Are About to Remake New York’s Public Schools – Here’s Their Story. At the same time as the New York 9 were funding FES with dark money in New York, they were bankrolling a SuperPAC that turned the state’s senate Republican.
Back home Mr. Klarman (and the other members of the SGP Big 3) leased out the brand name Stand for Children for their 2011-2012 fight with teachers unions, as I showed in Dark Money Sharks Devour Education Policy. And what better way to push privatization than to elect a mayor of Boston? Mr. Klarman and friends were most likely behind that too, again using Stand for Children as a front. In Dark Money Sharks Circled 2013 Boston Mayor’s Race, I wrote that Mr. Klarman and friends were probably behind the money Stand for Children threatened to toss into the mayoral contest for candidate John Connolly.
There is Upstream Money and Downstream Money in privatization politics. The upstream portion of Mr. Klarman’s campaigns are usually funded by Strategic Grant Partners, a group I’ve written about numerous times, but try The Hidden Money Behind Great Schools: Strategic Grant Partners.
Families for Excellent Schools, Great Schools Massachusetts, Stand for Children . . . oh yes, Mr. Klarman and the Partners are also behind the Boston Education Action Network. Have I missed anyone?
Privatizing public schools isn‘t about light-soaked images of activists in bright T-shirts waving signs, grassroots community activists, parents setting the agenda, or electing “leaders” who support the ed reform agenda. It’s definitely not about the children. It’s about our democracy and Massachusetts plutocrats trying to buy policy “purchased under a shell company subsidiary and hidden from public scrutiny.”
The Washington Post recently adopted a new slogan: “Democracy dies in darkness.” I agree.
[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 education policy.]