Maurice Cunningham is a political science professor at the University of Massachusetts who has become an expert on the subject of Dark Money. He has his own name for the billionaires devoted to charter schools. He calls them the “Financial Privatization Cabal.” That’s clever and accurate but I stick with “corporate reformers” because there are fewer syllables.*

Cunningham (no relation to the charter-loving Peter of the same last name) has done a deep dive into the Dark Money funders of the 2016 campaign to expand charter schools in Massachusetts via a referendum called Question 2. A New York City organization called Families for Excellent Schools (FES) arrived on the scene to bundle and dispense Dark Money and renamed itself Great Schools Massachusetts. (FES was funded by the Waltons and has now been replaced by a new group which calls itself Massachusetts Parents United, also Walton funded.)

What is Dark Money? It is money given to political campaigns by donors whose identities are hidden. The donors do not want their names to be revealed. So they give to a group like “Families for Excellent Schools.” After the charter lobby lost in Massachusetts in 2016, beaten by a sturdy coalition of teachers, parents, and volunteers, the state’s Office of Campaign and Political Finance conducted an inquiry and fined FES for failing to disclose the names of its donors. The fine was $426,00, along with a five-year ban on future political activity in Massachusetts. Shortly thereafter, FES folded due to a #MeToo scandal involving its executive director.

Before it closed its doors, FES was required to reveal its donors. One of them was  billionaire Seth Klarman.

Maurice Cunningham has checked out Klarman and found that he is one of the top donors to the Republican Party in New England. He doesn’t like Trump, so he recently gave $222,000 to the Democratic Party. That was front-page news in the Boston Globe.

Cunningham wonders why Klarman’s gift of $222,000 to the Democrats made the front page, but his gift of $3 Million to the pro-charter campaign in 2016 didn’t merit even a mention. 

But then relentless Maurice Cunningham discovered this:

“Klarman also is a part owner of the Fenway Sports Group, the Boston Red Sox parent company that is led by principal owner John Henry. Henry is also owner and publisher of The Boston Globe.”

Blood is thicker than water. Money is thicker than blood or water.

It is way past time that I name Maurice Cunningham to the honor roll of this Blog for his indefatigable sleuthing and pursuit of Dark Money. As always: Follow the money.

PS: To learn more about Stand for Children as a conduit for Dark Money and about Strategic Grant Partners read this post by Cunningham. 

*He explains:

“A NOTE ON TERMINOLOGY: I’ve failed to come up with a catchy name for the dark money funders so for now I’ve settled on “Financial Privatization Cabal.” Financial since most of the dark money is coming from the financial services industry. Privatization, because I believe their intention is to privatize public services. Cabal because it denotes a secret plot.”