What’s in a name? Maybe deception.

These people calling themselves “LASD Parents for Great Schools” donated more than $21,000 in one week to support pro-BCS candidates Martha McClatchie and John Swan.

I haven’t done a deep-dive on the list, but at a glance I see there’s a lot of overlap between this donor list and current and former BCS Foundation board and BCS School board members.

Recall that Martha McClatchie is a former LASD parent whose children now attend BCS. Martha volunteered for the BCS Foundation in 2012, completing and signing its 2012 IRS Form 990 as Principal Officer and Treasurer.

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Why not Martha? Her actions. (Part 1)

I’ve previously written about my experience with Martha McClatchie, and why I find her an ideologically inappropriate candidate for LASD Trustee. Ideology aside, there are a number of actions she has taken as a pro-BCS, anti-LASD activist that more then give me pause:

  1. Political flip-flop on BCS facilities litigation
  2. Obscuring BCS legal and PR expenditures
  3. Organizing a media stunt to shame LASD (coming soon)
  4. Close ties to charter movement leadership (coming soon)

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Much moore on Mann

Strange bedfellows indeed. Downright weird at times. How do these odd couplings come together in the first place? What does that dating game even look like? Beats me. One thing seems clear though: Craig Mann played hard in the small-time money, influence and county politics game. Here’s more of what I’ve learned, and it’s a little unsavory:

mannCraig Mann served on the Santa Clara County Board of Education from 2006 until his resignation in Aug. 2012. Prior to his tenure on SCCBOE, Mann was an East Side Union High School District trustee 1998-2006.

During May-June, 2010 Craig Mann repeatedly attacked SCCOE Superintendent Charles Weis over hiring a Chief Business Officer.

chuck_weisA search committee had been appointed and SCCBOE members were invited to participate in the process. Mann chose not to participate but later sent a series of angry emails to Superintendent Weis, Cc:-ing the rest of SCCBOE, other non-SCCOE people and even members of the press saying (quote):

  • The “No Coloreds” sign needs to come down from the COE drinking fountain.
  • “Jim Crow” employment practices must end at the Santa Clara County Office of Education and it must end now.

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Unpacking political contrition

On the evening of Sep. 20, 2012, the Los Altos United Methodist Church held a facilitated “listening” and “healing” event in a well-meaning attempt to bring together reasonable minds on both sides of the increasingly bitter BCS-vs-LASD battle.

This worthwhile peacemaking event was promoted by, among others, BCS Foundation Board Member Gil Ahrens, as a way to “lower the level of hostility”:

“There will be an opportunity for everyone to speak and be heard on the question of: “How have you experienced the BCS-LASD conflict?” I am very hopeful that this can be a constructive element in the process of community healing. PLEASE share this others you think would have interest.” [sic]

I showed up late, as did a number of other people I’m sure we would agree are pro-LASD. When I arrived, facilitators had already begun inviting the assembled group of 50 or so people to share their personal feelings and perspectives. I didn’t speak, but I took notes of what quite a number of others said.

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Moore on Joe’s campaign

I’ve already written about links between ‘out of area’ campaign contributions, charter politics and SCCBOE… but here’s a little Moore:

disalvoWhen Joe Di Salvo stood for re-election to the Area 4 seat on the Santa Clara County Board of Education in November 2012, he didn’t have to run against anyone. For some reason, no candidate emerged from Area 4 to challenge him, so Di Salvo basically didn’t even need to campaign.

The Area 4 seat on SCCBOE represents a majority portion of San Jose Unified, a portion of Oak Grove and corresponding portion of East Side Union High school districts.

FPPC filings show Di Salvo raised a total of $6,415 but spent a total of just $1,715. $3,000 came from his own mother. He was sitting on $4,844 in cash at year-end.

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County Board: “Voters are lame”

disalvoRelax. Take a seat.

In today’s episode of “You Gotta be @#$%^& Kidding Me” we hear Member Joe Di Salvo discussing consolidating the 31 Santa Clara County public school districts and expressing his desire to work on a subcommittee organized for this purpose led by Member Leon Beauchman. Here’s a short audio clip from the February 20, 2013 meeting of the Santa Clara County Board of Education. Please listen.

Whether the source is national (Broad Foundation), state (Cal Charters) or local (Reed Hastings), there’s a lot of big time pro-charter money being poured into Santa Clara county to create a crucible for “education reform.” (More hereSometimes the influence of political funding can be shocking, like when elected SCCBOE Members say that democratic local control over public education is broken and voters are powerless to do anything about it.

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For Sale: 1 strange bedfellow

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.

mannThis 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?

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In their own words

Most of us vote on election day to put people into public office but then unplug from politics and government until the next election cycle. I know people who spend a lot more personal time than I do attending school board or city council meetings.

scrutinyGovernment meetings are open to the public but few ordinary folk attend. Monitoring “the people’s business” is important and somebody needs to do it. 

The next best thing to attending a meeting of a public agency may be listening to audio recordings of meetings, and in some ways, may even be preferable.

If I attend a government meeting as a citizen observer, I might not be able to track all the details of a back-and-forth discussion, especially if I’m taking notes. With a good audio recording, I can listen at my leisure, reflect on points made, and as necessary, rewind and replay as often as I wish.

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You’re not getting paid to think

songAnna Song has been a member of the Santa Clara County Board of Education for thirteen years. First elected in 2000, she has been an active proponent of charters as the statewide and national movement has grown. She’s no fan of the ‘status quo’ and believes charter law is intended to make waves and shake things up in public education.

Nonetheless, in the 2012 election, she faced stiff opposition backed by big time pro-charter money via “Santa Clara County Schools PAC, Supporting Grace Mah and David Neighbors for County Board of Education and Opposing Anna Song 2012”

SCCS PAC LA-LAH Donors 2012 Continue reading

Do it like a pro

Q:  How do you influence elections with a big money war chest without jeopardizing your efforts by publicly exposing yourself and donors?

A:  Start a stealthy PAC and file campaign disclosures so late no one knows until after the election who your donors are or how much they donated.

You do it like a real pro—or two.

abramoff.bannerYou’ll recall Election Day 2012 was Tuesday, November 6. Sensitive campaign information disclosed on Fair Political Practice forms filed in early November would become public too late for opponents to use in any attempt to inform voters and influence the election.

A political action committee named “Santa Clara County Schools PAC, Supporting Grace Mah and David Neighbors for County Board of Education and Opposing Anna Song 2012” was organized in 2012. With that name, its goals were not very stealthy, which explains why its name changed to “Santa Clara County Schools PAC.”

The mailing address on SCC Schools PAC 2012 Forms 410/460 filed Nov. 2, 2012 was 300 South First Street, Ste. 340, San Jose, CA 95113, also the address of Catapult Strategies, Inc. owned by San Jose political consultant Jude Barry, next door to the former location of the San Jose Silicon Valley Chamber of Commerce.

According to www.getcatapult.com “Catapult Strategies, Inc. is a Silicon Valley-based social media, public relations, and political consulting firm with strong ties to and extensive knowledge of Silicon Valley business and political communities. [Jude] is a member of the Board of Directors of the University of San Francisco and Chairman of the Board of Advisors for the Leo McCarthy Center for Public Service and Common Good at USF.”

The phone number on SCC Schools PAC 2012 Forms 410/460 filed Nov. 2, 2012 was 415-689-8939, also the phone number of Jay Rosenthal, owner of JMR Strategic, based in San Francisco.

According to www.jmrstrategic.com “JMR Strategic is a strategic communications firm focused on public affairs, public relations, politics, and media. JMR Strategic excels in challenging situations where government, politics, and media intersect. [Jay] is a former Vice President for Public Policy at the San Jose Silicon Valley Chamber of Commerce serving as the chief architect of the Chamber’s public policy and political efforts and as the organization’s spokesperson. Prior to the Chamber, Rosenthal served as Vice President of Catapult Strategies, Inc. for four years.”

FPPC filings indicate that Santa Clara County Schools PAC paid Creative Strategies, Inc. and Jay Rosenthal at least $32,500 each, but $65,000 is just a drop in the proverbial bucket in this intriguing story.

It’s important to know that prior to the Nov. 2012 election, campaigns for Santa Clara County Board of Education were ‘penny ante’ stakes. In recent years, campaigns have been run entirely without a campaign committee, some campaigns spend as little as $100 and the big spenders report $10-15,000 in costs. (For her 2008 re-election to the Board of Education, Mah’s own campaign committee reported just $11,500 in expenditures.)

Education reporter Sharon Noguchi tried to get the word out via this article published in the San Jose Mercury News on Oct. 31, 2012, but it was obviously far too late for anyone to act on the news if they even read it amidst all the noisy campaigning going on at that time. At press time, $196K in donations had been reported, which candidate Song rightly called, “[…]an outrageous amount of money[…]” but that wasn’t even close to the final total.

SCC Schools PAC eventually raised $296K to re-elect Mah and defeat Song.

Given all the turmoil in Santa Clara County today with regard to charter schools created by the County Board of Education, I think voters would’ve liked to know:

  • Who’s donating that kind of money, why do they so badly want to re-elect Grace Mah and what has Anna Song done to make someone want to oust her?
  • Who’s paying Jude Barry and Jay Rosenthal $65K to run a low profile campaign to control two seats on the Santa Clara County Board of Education?

Here’s a list of the big money donors to Santa Clara County Schools PAC 2012:

SCCS PAC LA-LAH Donors 2012

Almost none of this money came from within Santa Clara County but it’s pretty obvious that charter school heavyweights want Grace Mah on the Santa Clara County County Board of Education. The opposite is true for Anna Song.

Coming from Palo Alto as she does, you might imagine that a PAC formed to re-elect Grace Mah would attract Palo Alto donors, but this isn’t true of SCC Schools PAC. Maybe Palo Alto is still stinging from Mah’s 2005-2007 battle against the PAUSD over creating a Mandarin Immersion program.

My hunch is that the really big money gets committed early but not actually received until the dates shown on the FPPC forms. For example, California Charter Schools Assn., Reed Hastings and Eli Broad made $100K in donations less than 2 weeks before election day. I doubt they decided at the last minute to go big with donations. Someone cleverly and strategically floated campaign expenses for SCC Schools PAC until the last minute.

There is an LASD angle to this. Donations to SCC Schools PAC from our community were some of the first recorded. What has Grace Mah done for, and what has Anna Song done against, the pro-charter movement in LASD? Much more on that yet to come.

SCCS PAC Big Donors 2012