Archives for category: Democrats

Maurice Cunningham is a professor of political science at the University of Massachusetts who specializes in shining a bright light on Dark Money, the money insidiously inserted into political campaigns under false pretenses, where the donors try to hide their identity. In the instance described below, the identities of the donors are mostly known, so technically it is not Dark Money, but the purposes of the donors are hidden. The Waltons are part of the hard rightwing. They  oppose higher taxes, unions, or anything that might diminish their fortune of $150 billion. They advocate for vouchers and charters, never public schools. They employ one million low-wage workers. They have launched lawsuits to lower the property taxes of their Walmarts, which reduce state and local funding for public services. Their entry into Democratic politics is intended to boost conservative candidates who support their preference for low taxes on the richest. It’s actually a brilliant strategy, like DFER: the billionaires already own the Republican Party and benefit from its tax cuts and deregulation, time to use their money to gain influence in the Democratic Party too.

Cunningham writes:

Waltons Dive into Democratic Primaries Behind National Parents United

The Walton family, heirs to the Wal-Mart fortune, are trying to deal themselves in to Democratic primary politics. It isn’t any mystery why. Conservative billionaires feel gravely threatened by Bernie Sanders and Elizabeth Warren. Their vehicle is yet another new privatization front posing as a parents group, National Parents Union.

National Parents Union appears to be an umbrella for groups working in their states on privatization of public goods, primarily schools. It’s hard to tell since they haven’t published their membership list, just a claim that groups from all 50 states will meet in New Orleans. Since the headquarters is listed as Malden, MA and the co-founder is Massachusetts Parents United’s Keri Rodrigues Lorenzo, we can take that operation as representative. Here’s how I introduced Massachusetts Parents United: Old Win in an Empty Bottle last year: “Massachusetts Parents United claims to be ‘the independent voice of parents.’ But it’s entirely dependent on funding from the Walton Family’s (tax deductible) political operations.” Since then I’ve learned there are some other givers—two $100,000 checks in 2018, etc.— but the Waltons are still the chief underwriters, giving $366,000 in 2017 and $500,000 in 2018.

So we’ll await the list of member organizations but it is most likely they will be fronts for privatization interests funded by the Waltons, Eli Broad, and other billionaire privatizers. When I first wrote about NPU in Keri Rodrigues Goes Coastal with Plans for National Parents Union I wrote “Funding! There is nothing in it about who would be bankrolling this operation. There is a list of advisors (in formation) and wouldn’t some of them want to know who is funding such an ambitious proposal? Enough suspense: it will be the WalMart legatees.” In other words, this is the kind of faux Fortune 500 grassroots operation I wrote about in Massachusetts Parents United: Grassroots or AstroTurf?

The pitch Rodrigues made to the Waltons to fund NPU was calculated to activate the Walton check writing glands. It leaned heavily on positioning NPU as a voice in the Democratic Party primary season that would attack unions. Labor is anathema to the Waltons because it advocates for a livable wage and decent benefits (against the Wal-Mart business plan) and for public goods that require taxation of the rich and rich companies (see The Waltons: From Dark Money to Dark Store Theory, It’s All About Taxes).

To linger on the union question for a moment, how many corporations are big, powerful, and awful enough to get trashed by Human Rights Watch, as Wal-Mart was in Discounting Rights: Wal-Mart’s Violation of US Workers’ Rights to Freedom of Association.

One fascinating aspect of NPU’s corporate public debut has been its Right Wing Rollout. A PR firm sent out a press availability and in the past week NPU has been featured on SiriusXM Patriot (featuring Breitbart News Daily and Sean Hannity), the conservative Washington Examiner, and FoxNews. Not your typical progressive outlets but a good clue as to where the Waltons’ new operation has appeal.

In recent years the Waltons have also heavily backed Democrats for Education Reform, which has promoted itself as seeking school privatization as an “inside job” within the Democratic Party. There is evidence that younger Waltons are donating more to Democrats, as Leslie K. Finger and Sarah Reckhow wrote in Walmart Heirs Shift From Red to Purple: The Evolving Political Contributions of the Nation’s Richest Family. Partisan labels don’t matter as much as does the shared interest among the extremely wealthy to protect their incomes and wealth and to keep their public obligations (taxes) minimal, as Jeffrey A. Winters explains in Oligarchy.

So NPU is another extension of the Waltons effort to use various vehicles to protect the Waltons and increase what goes into their own bank accounts. This has already been evident during the Democratic primary season, as I wrote in Walton Family Political Front Disrupts Elizabeth Warren Speech. In that one I included a tweet by CNN’s Ryan Grim, who was covering the event: “So the nut of what happened tonight in ATL is that a pro-charter group funded by the Waltons protested a Warren speech about a pioneering union led by black women. And, bc it’s all so on the nose, Warren had been talking about corrupt systems are designed to exploit ppl in pain.”

At the end of the NPU media advisory there is this: “At the conclusion of the summit, delegates will vote in a straw poll assessing the education proposals and policies of the 2020 Presidential Candidates.” (bold in original). Bernie and Elizabeth, do not wait up late at night for a big puff of white smoke coming from the local Wal-Mart. This could be a big night for privatization champion Michael Bloomberg (any chance he’s among the NPU financial backers?).  I can’t wait for the endorsement advertisement.

Wal-Mart’s workplace practices include “a vociferous anti-unionism, embedded gender discrimination, compulsive cost cutting, and near-comprehensive control over workers and the workplace.”—Prof. Thomas Jensen Adams

[Full disclosure: as an educator in the UMass system, I am a union member. I write about dark money, not education.]

A few weeks ago, Democrats in the New Hampshire legislature’s Fiscal Oversight Committee rejected $46 million from Betsy DeVos and the federal Charter Schools Program. The vote was 7-3 on partisan lines.

The grant would have doubled the number of charters in the state at a time of declining enrollment statewide.

The Republican State Commissioner of  Education, Frank Edelblut, came back to the committee with the same request, reminding the committee that the previous Democratic Governor Maggie Hassan had supported charter schools.

The Democratic-controlled committee again voted 7-3 to reject the $46 million, warning of additional costs to the state when the federal funds were expended. 

Edelblut is a home schooler who was appointed by the far-right Republican Governor Chris Sununu.

Congratulations to the wise Democrats of New Hampshire, who practiced fiscal restraint and protected the state’s public schools.

Be sure to read Peter Greene’s detailed account of this happy event. He points out that the existing New Hampshire charter schools have produced no lessons for public schools and they have empty seats.

https://www.concordmonitor.com/New-Hampshire-again-rejects-federal-money-for-charter-school-expansion-31904290

Jeff Bryant attended the Presidential Forum for Democratic candidates in Pittsburgh, and he watched to see how the candidates reacted to the Bush-Obama-Duncan agenda.

Michael Bennett was the only one to endorse it, and he got a tepid reception.

The others spoke of their love for public schools, their desire to raise funding, etc, but barely mentioned charters or testing unless pushed.

Duncan’s name was never mentioned.

Evaluating teachers by test scores never came up.

Everything that Bush and Obama had promoted was absent.

Of course, everything they promoted has failed, and the moderator kept referring to flat NAEP scores to challenge the candidates, without recognizing that the stagnant scores are the results of 20 years of No Child Left Behind, Race to the Top, and Common Core.

But Jeff is not convinced that the change is more than cosmetic.

He thinks that the candidates will gravitate to where the money is: Wall Street; hedge fund managers; billionaires.

Warren and Sanders have not.

But he is right about this: Bad habits and bad ideas die slowly. If at all.

Not one candidate said simply and candidly, “everything that the federal government has imposed since passage of NCLB has failed. We need a fresh vision.”

 

 

Kentucky passed a law authorizing charters but never provided funding for them. The new governor of Kentucky, Democrat Andy Beshears, was elected in part because of his strong support by teachers and his commitment to public schools.

First charter school application in Kentucky rejected

NEWPORT, Ky. (AP) — The first charter school application filed in Kentucky has been unanimously denied. News outlets report Newport Independent Schools rejected the application Thursday night. The superintendent says the documents submitted by the proposed River Cities Academy lacked planning in multiple areas. A review committee says there was significant plagiarism in the application process. The committee also found a lack of authentic community support for the school. River Cities Academy can appeal the decision to the state board of education. The state approved charter schools in 2017 but a funding source for the schools hasn’t been provided

Robert Kuttner of The American Prospect takes the New York Times to task for its coverage of progressive candidates.

ON TAP Today from the American Prospect

DECEMBER 23, 2019

Kuttner on TAP

The Times Brands Sanders and Warren as Far LeftThe sheer ideological bias of the mainstream press continues to astound. Today’s offender is a piece in The New York Times (page B2 of the Monday print edition) with the headline “Democrats Are Cautious About Ideas on the Far Left.”

 

The Times’ examples are Medicare for All and free public higher education. Call me old-fashioned, but I always thought “far left” referred to such ideas as nationalizing the means of production. You know: Lenin, Fidel, Chairman Mao.

 

Free public higher education is about as far left as Lincoln’s land grant colleges. For more than a century, it was the norm in America.

 

The Times bases its conclusion on a survey which shows that 30.5 percent of Democratic respondents want public colleges to be free to everyone and another 31.6 percent want them free to all but the wealthy. So, depending on how you read the poll, you might conclude that 62.1 percent of Democrats want public colleges to be free for the vast majority of people. Does that make most Democrats far left?

 

Turning to Medicare for All, the Times survey finds that 58.4 percent of respondents want Medicare to be available to all, with the option of keeping private insurance, while only 24.7 percent want everyone on a “single government plan.” (Actually, Medicare comes in many flavors, but never mind.)

 

Yet the same poll asks respondents which candidate they most trust on health care, and … wait for it … 35.8 percent pick Bernie Sanders and another 33.2 percent pick Elizabeth Warren. In other words, 69 percent prefer Sanders or Warren on health care, and of course both favor Medicare for All.

 

So, by the Times’ definition, 69 percent of Democrats are evidently “far left.” What gives? Could it be that respondents have inconsistent, context-dependent preferences, depending on how the question is asked?

 

Well, yes, as any competent pollster can tell you. That’s just Political Science 101. The Times betrays three bad habits: overwriting headlines and stories, misunderstanding the dark arts of polling, and a not-so-subtle bias favoring the political center. ~ ROBERT KUTTNER

 

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Robert Kuttner’s new book is The Stakes: 2020 and the Survival of American Democracy.


 



 


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In response to challenges from Elizabeth Warren about his funders, Mayor Pete Buttigieg released a list of his major donors, including his “bundlers,” the people who raise money from others for him.

The list included some interesting names.

One of them was Wall Street hedge fund manager John Pertry, who serves on the board of Eva Moskowitz’s Success Academy charter chain in New York City.

Petry was one of the original founders of DFER (Democrats for Education Reform), the organization of hedge fund managers that funds charter supporters across the nation.

While Buttigieg published a list of bundlers on his website last week, the campaign privately circulated the names of people in its “Investors Circle” — fundraisers who had raised at least $25,000 — in a finance update this summer. The 20 people and couples on that document who weren’t on Buttigieg’s public bundler list last week are: Andrew Tobias of New York; Barbara and Rodge Cohen of Irvington, N.Y.; David Winter of New York; Didem Nisanci of Washington; Eli Cohen of Chevy Chase, Md.; Eric Schieber of Chicago; Freddy Balsera of Miami; Genevieve and Robert Lynch of New York; Hamilton South of Cornwall, Conn.; Jack Connors of Boston; John Petry of New York; John Phillips of Washington; Jordan Horowitz of Los Angeles; Kelly Bavor of Atherton, Calif.; Kyle Keyser of Atlanta; Nicole Avant of Los Angeles; Stephen Patton of Chicago; Ted Dintersmith of Charleston, S.C.; Tom Gearen of Chicago; and William Rahm of New York.

Buttigieg has combined the power of low-dollar online fundraising and big events with wealthy supporters to become one of the most successful fundraisers in the Democratic field. He has raised $51 million in his bid for president as of Sept. 30, the most recent fundraising deadline, with 47 percent of the contributions coming from donors who gave less than $200.

But as Buttigieg’s poll numbers have risen in Iowa and New Hampshire, critics on the left are accusing the South Bend, Ind., mayor of failing to live up to Democratic Party ideals. Protesters picketed outside a Buttigieg fundraiser in New York last week, chanting “Wall Street Pete.” Warren, who is competing with Buttigieg for the top spot in February’s Iowa caucuses, has been particularly critical, calling out Buttigieg for offering donors “regular phone calls and special access.”

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Buttigieg recently began allowing media access to his campaign fundraisers in response to some of that criticism.

Buttigieg, who like other candidates is racing to bank millions of dollars to spend on television and field staff in Iowa and other early voting states, has continued hitting high-dollar fundraisers at breakneck speed between his campaign stops. On Monday morning, the families of several of Silicon Valley’s biggest executives — including spouses and relatives of Netflix CEO Reed Hastings, Google co-founder Sergey Brin, former Google CEO Eric Schmidt and Facebook Chief Operating Officer Sheryl Sandberg — assembled in Palo Alto, Calif., for an event supporting Buttigieg.

The night before, Buttigieg was in Napa Valley, where Buttigieg and donors dined under a chandelier adorned with 1,500 Swarovski crystals in cavernous room known as a “wine cave.” “Needless to say, we will never have a fundraiser at a wine cave,” Sanders’ campaign wrote Monday in a fundraising email to supporters.

Speaking to the crowd in Napa, Buttigieg urged his donors to redouble their work.

“I’m asking to you to work to share whatever it is that brought you here to those that may have gotten a little more cynical about the whole thing,” Buttigieg told the donors. “If we do that, as bleak as things are in our country circa December 2019, my hope and my faith is that, in a few years, we’ll be able to look back on 2020 with pride.”

Veteran journalist John Merrow attended the Public Education Forum in Pittsburgh.

In this post, he reports his views about the candidates.

Which ones did best, which ones were disappointing.

And which one was the biggest surprise of the day and, in his estimation, “the biggest winner of the day.”

The Washington Post reported this evening that moderate Democrats who voted to impeach Trump are the targets of a GOP ad campaign to oust them. Every one of them knew they were putting their future at risk.

 

GOP-tied group to spend $2.5 million against moderate Democrats

An advocacy group with GOP ties said Wednesday it will spend $2.5 million in the immediate aftermath of the House impeachment vote to attack supportive Democratic lawmakers in running next year in districts President cTrump previously won.

The new American Action Network spending is in addition to the $8.5 million the group has already spent in the lead-up to Wednesday’s vote — a campaign that has spooked many vulnerable Democrats but failed to convince them to oppose impeachment.

A total of 29 members will be targeted by digital ads. Nine of those will see cable and broadcast television ads run in their districts: Democratic Reps. Jared Golden (Maine), Elissa Slotkin (Mich.), Xochitl Torres Small (N.M.), Susie Lee (Nev.), Max Rose (N.Y.), Anthony Brindisi (N.Y), Kendra Horn (Okla.), Joe Cunningham (S.C.) and Elaine Luria (Va.).

If I conducted a poll of readers of this blog about their choice for the Democratic nominee in 2020, I suppose that Sanders and Warren would lead the pack, overwhelmingly.

But here is a different point of view.

The North America editor of the BBC has a warning for Americans.

Pay attention to what happened in the British elections, where Boris Johnson walloped the Labour Party.

If you want to beat Trump, he says, don’t look for someone who promises the moon.

Sanders and Warren are popular with the young, but not with older voters, he says.

Choose a centrist.

Every blogger who has written about MSNBC’s Public Education Forum expressed gratitude that a big cable network paid attention to our most important democratic institution.

Nancy Bailey is angry about the issues that were ignored, the ones that threaten the future of students, teachers, and public education.

She is also streamed that the program was not on live TV. Public education not important enough for live TV? 50 million children are in public schools. They have parents. Quite an audience to overlook.

Good work, Nancy!

She writes (in part, read it all):

Candidates talked about making the wealthy pay their fair share of taxes to help schools, but no one mentioned Bill Gates, the Waltons, Eli Broad, Mark Zuckerberg or any of the corporate reformers who are taking control of public schools.

They didn’t mention Common Core or the failure of the initiatives funded by the Gates Foundation and taxpayers. Nor did they speak about portfolio schools, the latest corporate endeavor to push choice and charters.

No one mentioned using Social Impact Bonds or Pay for Success to profit off of public schools. See: “Wall Street’s new way of making money from public education — and why it’s a problem” by Valerie Strauss.

CEO Tom Steyer mentioned corporate influence towards the end, but it was brief, and no moderator attempted to explore what he said.

Ed-Tech

No one mentioned what might be the biggest threat to public education, the replacement of teachers and brick-and-mortar schools with technology.

Disruption was initially described by Clayton Christensen and Michael Horn in their book Disrupting Class: How Disruptive Innovation Will Change the Way the World Learns. This is seen as the revolution by those in business and the tech industry and is being played out in online charter schools like Summit and Rocketship. Summit also has an online virtual school.

Many students across the country get school vouchers to be used for substandard online instruction like K12 and Connections Academy.Preschoolers are subjected to unproven Waterford UPSTART.

The candidates might want to review Tultican’s “Ed Tech About Profits NOT Education.”

Wrench in the Gears is another blog good at describing the threat of technology.

Teach for America

Teach for America corps members with little training have taken over classrooms, and they run state departments of education!

Do Democratic candidates have Teach for America corps members as consultants on their campaigns? It’s troubling if they do. They should not be wooing teachers with professional degrees and experience while relying on TFA behind the scenes.

Other insidious reform groups are also about replacing education professionals. Relay Graduate School, The New Teacher Project, New Leaders are a few.

This needs to be addressed, sooner, not later.

Betsy DeVos et al.

I don’t know anyone who doesn’t enjoy hearing Democratic candidates say they’re going to boot Education Secretary Betsy DeVos out.

But President Obama had individuals from the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation, and other corporate reform groups, working in the U.S. Department of Education. Arne Duncan was no friend to teachers or public schools.

So, while applause against DeVos are justifiable, now’s the time to address the role Democrats have played (and continue to play) in corporate school reform.

The fact is, many groups and individuals are working to end public education, who wear Democratic name tags. It’s imperative that Democratic candidates address this.