California political activist Karen Wolfe writes in this article about the rightwing money behind Marshall Tuck’s campaign to become State Superintendent of Public Instruction. The campaign has been well endowed by the usual crowd of billionaires who want to undermine school boards and expand the charter industry. Tuck has raised at least $25 million so far, an unprecedented amount for the job of state superintendent, reflecting how badly the billionaires want control of the state.

By the end of the campaign, Tuck will likely have collected at least $30 million, far exceeding Tony Thurmond’s $10 Million, most of it from teachers and people committed to public schools and opposed to corporate influence in the schools.

Tuck, writes Wolfe, “has the same pro-privatizing platform that voters rejected when he was defeated for the position four years ago, and it’s the same education platform of Republican presidential candidates Jeb Bush and John Kasich, and Vice President Mike Pence: To deregulate public education, to outsource school services, to make it harder for teachers to gain tenure, and to expand the market of “school choice.””

Aside from the usual billionaires, Tuck accepted a contribution from an anti-gay financier, Howard Ahmanson Jr., who had previously bankrolled Prop 8, a proposition to ban same-sex marriage.

Wolfe writes:

“Ahmanson’s name set off alarm bells with LGBTQ groups such as Equality California because of his association with a dark chapter in California politics.

“In 2008, when an idealistic grassroots movement swept the country electing Barack Obama the first black President, the California ballot included Proposition 8, a measure to ban gay marriage. The Prop 8 campaign succeeded following massive funding from the religious right.

“Before the U.S. Supreme Court made the right to same sex marriage the law of the land, Ahmanson contributed $1.4 million to Prop 8.

“Money flooded into California from anti-gay groups across the land. Michigan philanthropist Elsa Prince Broekhuizen was another major contributor to California’s Prop 8, giving $450,000. Readers will be more familiar with Broekhuizen’s adult children: U.S. Secretary of Education Betsy DeVos and Blackwater mercenary founder Erik Prince.

“An anti-gay crusade is foundational to their philanthropic activism. Ahmanson once told the Orange County Register, “My goal is the total integration of biblical law into our lives.”

“Ahmanson may have adopted his religious and political agenda as a close follower and funder of the now deceased “Rousas John Rushdoony, a radical evangelical theologian who advocated placing the United States under the control of a Christian theocracy that would mandate the stoning to death of homosexuals.”

“It would not be a stretch to say that Ahmanson and members of the Prince and DeVos families are part of a Dominionist kabal, using extreme wealth to reorient American government toward extremist Christian doctrine. They regularly attend The Gathering, a “shadowy, powerful network” of hard-right Christian funders, according to an investigation published in the Daily Beast.

“The Gathering is as close to a ‘vast right-wing conspiracy’ as you’re likely to find,” Jay Michaelson reported. Attendees are the “wealthiest conservative to hard-right evangelical philanthropists in America, and have led the campaigns to privatize public schools, redefine ‘religious liberty,’ fight same-sex marriage, [and] fight evolution…” he wrote. It was at The Gathering where Betsy DeVos said she wants to “advance God’s Kingdom” through public schools. It was there that she and her husband said that school choice was a way to reverse the history of public schools displacing the Church as the center of communities.

“DeVos and Ahmanson are each doing their part as religious warriors in the crusade. With the help of a compliant Congress, DeVos is exploding the barrier that historically separated American public education from religion. She has promoted school vouchers to pay for religious schools, withdrawn Obama Administration guidance that protected transgender students, and is trying to give churches the chance to reclaim their place at the center of communities by expanding school choice.”

When a statewide LGBTQ group complained about Tuck accepting $5,000 from Ahmanson, Tuck returned the money. But the same advocacy group—Equality California— pointed out that Ahmanson had contributed $57,800 to Tuck’s 2014 and urged him to donate that amount to programs for LGBTQ youth. That money was never feturned or contributed elsewhere.