This is a must-read column by John Merrow.

In it, he says that Michelle Rhee paid $2 million to a politically connected public relations firm (Anita Dunn and SKDKnickerbocker) in D.C. in a one-year period. (Anita Dunn was communications director for the Obama administration from April to November 2009.)

He writes:

“In just one year[1] Michelle Rhee spent about $2 million to buy the public relations services of Anita Dunn [2] and SKDKnickerbocker. It’s a continuing relationship that goes back to early in Rhee’s Chancellorship in Washington, and it’s probably the best money Rhee has ever spent (especially because it was contributed by her supporters).

“Just consider the challenge facing the PR team: The former Chancellor of the Washington, DC public schools ignored clear evidence [3] of cheating by adults [4] on the District’s standardized exams, as Linda Mathews, Jay Mathews, Jack Gillum, Michael Joseloff and I documented in “Michelle Rhee’s Reign of Error.”

“But Rhee went beyond covering up the misdeeds. Instead of making a sincere effort to root out the cheaters, Rhee stage-managed four ‘investigations’ so that they cleared her. All the while, a feckless Mayor and the local newspaper averted their eyes, in sharp contrast to the vigorous investigation of a comparable cheating scandal in Atlanta.

“With her test-based accountability schemes discredited and her reputation as a fearless, tough-minded leader severely damaged, Ms. Rhee might have been expected to disappear from the scene. However, that has not happened. Instead, she remains in the public eye, writing op-eds [5] and offering analysis of educational developments. This fall she will be a presenter in the annual “Schools of Tomorrow” education symposium sponsored by The New York Times–even though the subject is higher education.”

He wonders why the District of Columbia was not included in the New Yorker article about cheating scandals.

(Read the original to follow the links.)

Most interesting is his description of an effort to smear him while he was preparing a documentary about Rhee for PBS. Even for a veteran reporter like Merrow, it was intimidating to be confronted with a long list of accusations, intended to undermine his credibility as a journalist.

He deals also with Rhee’s efforts to call herself a Democrat even though her organization, StudentsFirst, funds many conservative Republicans. According to this article in Salon in 2012,

“Rhee makes a point of applauding “leaders in both parties and across the ideological spectrum” because her own political success — and the success of school reform — depends upon the bipartisan reputation she has fashioned. But 90 of the 105 candidates backed by StudentsFirst were Republicans, including Tea Party enthusiasts and staunch abortion opponents.”