According to The American Heritage New Dictionary of Cultural Literacy, the idiom “politics makes strange bedfellows” means something akin to “political interests can bring together people who otherwise have little in common.“
This springs to mind when I see things like this campaign disclosure filing from Craig Mann’s June 2008 primary run for San Jose City Council.
It appears Mann was a pretty good fundraiser, scoring tens of thousands of dollars in donations in just a few months. His filings report lots of San Jose donations, which you’d expect, but also lots of money from places you’d probably never expect:
- Phoenix, AZ
- Tacoma, WA
- Boston, MA
- San Angelo, TX
- Las Vegas, NV
- Atlanta, GA
To be fair, these could be ‘friends & family’ donors, but it’s still impressive to see this kind of geographic reach since it’s highly unlikely San Jose city politics could benefit such far flung donors. I mean, what’s the nexus between San Jose, CA and Atlanta, GA?
OK, maybe it’s cynical to portray a campaign donation as half a “quid pro quo,” but let’s be honest, in the absence of a personal relationship with a candidate or affinity for a plank in their campaign platform, donations are usually a trade, this for that.
We all know campaign donations can buy access, influence and policy votes.
I can understand onesie-twosie donations to Mann’s campaign from friends & family from cities far from San Jose, but why would a bunch of Los Altos, Los Altos Hills and Palo Alto people be interested in supporting a San Jose City Council candidate?
Scanning this list of donor names, the charter school connection jumps right out. John Danner is a founder of Rocketship Education. Wanny Hersey is Principal of Bullis Charter School. Craig Jones is a BCS founder. Anne Marie Gallagher and Peter Evans were BCS Board members. Buffy Poon is the BCS mom who wrote a 2011 email to SCCBOE that elicited the “So What?” reply from Anna Song and sparked an intense charter renewal debate. And there are the others.
But the question remains, why would a pro-charter crowd in the north county care about a San Jose City Council primary race? Maybe because in 2008 Craig Mann was a member of the Santa Clara County Board of Education.
What else was happening in 2008? Bullis Charter School was seeking to modify its charter to add middle school grades 7 and 8. Do you suppose Bullis Charter School folks were trying to score points with Mann by funding his city council campaign?
Mann finished third in the District 8 primary, collecting just 1,998 votes. With campaign expenses of $59K, that’s nearly $30 per vote. [Which seems like a lot to me… but what do I know about diamonds?]
Since SCCBOE later approved a revision of BCS’ charter to expand to grades 7 and 8, you could argue these donations paid off, especially because Mann remained on the SCCBOE until 2012. Whatever good mojo charter folks earned in 2008 by supporting Mann’s City Council campaign might have improved their influence through his departure.
And lest you still think this charter school political “quid pro quo” idea is just cynical, I’ll point you to this other example from 2010 when Craig Mann ran for re-election to the “Area 6” seat on the Santa Clara County Board of Education. (When you have a minute, there’s also this and this example too.)
NOTE: the SCCBOE “Area 6” seat doesn’t represent Los Altos or Los Altos Hills. Area 6 represents Alum Rock, Mt. Pleasant, and Franklin-McKinley and corresponding portion of East Side Union High school districts and a small portion of San Jose Unified.
Given Mann’s experience raising money from north county charter proponents in 2008 (and possibly before) it’s really no mystery how some BCS money shows up on Mann’s 2010 re-election disclosures. But I have to wonder… who called who?
Regardless of who made the call, the obvious reason for La Poll and the Moores to donate generously to Craig Mann’s re-election is to gain influence, especially with the BCS charter up for renewal within a year of Mann’s 2010 re-election.
“Quid pro quo, Clarice.”
In case you actually pulled up Mann’s 2010 disclosure and noticed a $3,000 donation from Bruce Flyn, you may be interested to know Bruce Flyn & Associates’ website reads:
“Bruce Flyn and Associates has been providing construction inspection services for California Public Schools Districts since 1990. Our client list includes: East Side Union High School District, San Jose Unified School District, San Jose/Evergreen Community College District, Chabot/Los Positas Community College District, West Valley/Mission Community College District, Alum Rock Union School District, Milpitas Unified School District, Union School District, Morgan Hill Unified School District, Gilroy Unified School District, San Jose State University, Campbell Union School District, Moreland School District, Sunnyvale School District, Fremont Union High School District, and the Santa Clara County Office of Education.”
I know what you’re thinking… “Ohh, mann.”