A state investigation revealed the identities of donors to a secret fund to oppose an initiative that would increase funding to public schools and to support an initiative to weaken the unions’ political influence.

Among the donors to the $11 million secret fund was billionaire Eli Broad. He publicly supported Governor Jerry Brown’s measure to raise taxes to help the state’s struggling public schools at the same time that he put $1 million into the fund to defeat the new tax.

Broad similarly has pretended to be a friend to unions, but was a contributor to the fund–organized in part by the far-right Koch brothers–that would have limited the ability of unions to raise political cash.

The billionaires failed. The tax increase passed, and the effort to curb union spending was defeated.

If the bill limiting union spending had passed, only the super-rich would be able to give large campaign contributions but those who represent working people would be stripped of any opportunity to fund candidates or issues they cared about.

Other donors to the secret fund were investor Charles Schwab and the Fisher family, owners of the Gap and a major funder of KIPP.

Eli Broad and other donors to this fund went to great lengths to hide their antipathy to public schools and unions.

When I spoke in Sacramento two years ago, I spent two hours with Governor Brown and he told me he had to be diplomatic and nice to Michelle Rhee to keep Eli Broad’s support for his tax increase. He was fooled.

The tax increase was needed because former Governor Arnold Schwarzenegger had cut the public schools’ budget by about $15 billion while setting aside capital funds for charter schools and giving charter advocates a majority of seats on the state board of education. At that time, charters enrolled about 4% of the students in California.