Races To The Bottom

I suppose it’s appropriate this year’s primaries are being held on September 11th because it will mark a truly tragic event. Today will be the first time the 50CAN Action Fund has an impact on RI elections. According to Saturday’s ProJo, the 501(c)(4) has raised a $213,000 “war chest” with donations from the likes of NY City Mayor Michael Bloomberg and RI’s own self-proclaimed techie bad boy, Angus Davis. RI-CAN, the RI affiliate of 50CAN, says it has spent around $44,000 to support four “pro-education reform” Democrats, including Senate Finance Committee Chairman Daniel DaPonte and former RI-CAN board member Maura Kelly, in their General Assembly races.

Of course, this is probably just the tip of the iceberg. You see, non-profits such as 50CAN Action Fund don’t have to disclose their donors. And, ever since the infamous Citizens United ruling, these organizations can spend unlimited amounts of money on elections.  So you can bet a lot more is flowing into candidates’ pockets, like perhaps RI-CAN’s former executive director Maryellen Butke.

The Vulture Philanthropists are Circling

What’s that? You say you’re running for office and want in on the action too? Okay. Here’s the plan:

1)      Fat cats, commonly from the tech industry, donate tons to 501(c)(3) organizations like RI-CAN and Achievement First. Think of the funds as zero-risk tax-deductible investments. Well, because that’s pretty much what they are.

2)      These non-profits, run by executives, some with financial ties to the donors (such as Sandra Smith, RI-CAN board member and principal of Catalyst Strategies, whose list of clients includes Davis’ TellMe Networks), take the money and use it to try and privatize public education by building charter schools, creating digital classrooms, replacing highly qualified teachers with unqualified, non-union scabs – anything to reduce costs and increase profits, which unsurprisingly go largely to the donors’ businesses.

3)      The fats cats and non-profits then put some money into a 501(c)(4), in this case the 50CAN Action Fund. And that’s where you come in. Make corporate education deforms part of your platform and you’ll get plenty of dough to campaign against your opponents! Get elected and repeat the process every two years. It’s that easy!

Best of all, everyone makes out like bandits:

The donors can earn 100% off of their initial investments in a few years. The non-profit execs, of course, can do alright for themselves too, with charter management operators comfortably pulling down six-figure salaries. Granted, some of the windfall must be used for political favors but that’s just the cost of doing business, right?  Sure. If you’re a loyal legislator and can keep the taxpayer dollars rolling in, then it’s a bribe well spent! Besides, the donations are anonymous so it’s doubtful this scheme will ever fully be exposed.

As for you, you get the glory as the politician who saves our schools! Plus, with all the campaign cash coming your way, you won’t have to lift a finger. Just sit back, relax and let the consultants do the work. Like we say in RI, now you “know a guy”. Dealing with the angry mobs of students, parents and taxpayers could get dicey once they find out the claims of education miracles are bogus. But that’s to be expected. We both know this has never been about the kids, which is why the PR folks will want you to say the exact opposite over and over again in speeches. Oh, don’t worry; by the time the house of cards finally comes down, I’m sure you could run for Mayor of Chicago or something.

Welcome to the club!

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2 Responses to “Races To The Bottom”

  1. bristolbullraker Says:

    Great article today on GoLocalProv: http://www.golocalprov.com/news/aaron-regunberg-ri-can-shows-its-true-colors/

  2. bristolbullraker Says:

    Thanks to Montana’s resistance to the Citizens United ruling, we now have a glimpse into the shady practices of a 501(c)(4) called Western Tradition Partnership: http://www.pbs.org/wgbh/pages/frontline/big-sky-big-money/

    And, surprise, surprise, there happen to be some donors from education groups (http://www.pbs.org/wgbh/pages/frontline/government-elections-politics/big-sky-big-money/dark-money-groups-donors-revealed/):

    “WTP’s biggest donation that wasn’t simply a pass-through, for $110,000, was from the Spur Education Fund, an obscure nonprofit with no website, about which little information is available. Incorporated in June 2010… the fund transferred money to WTP four times between July and September 2010.”

    “Another donor was K12 Management, which gave $20,000 in October 2010. K12 Management, which bills itself as the “largest provider of online education for grades K-12,” was co-founded in 2000 by former Education Secretary William Bennett and has been at the center of controversy over the rapid rise of for-profit virtual schools.”

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