Governors engage in a fair number of strange and suspicious political maneuvers – but this one is a first.
Call it the “Golden Rule” when it comes to Elected Officials and their relationship with the media;
All major elected official release their “Public Schedule.” It is often sent out to reporters the day before so that the media can plan their day and determine which events they want to attend.
Traditionally only a small fraction of an official’s events show up on that “Public Schedule” because it usually is limited to events in which the press can go and see the official “in action.” In addition there is usually an informal “press availability” before or after the event.
After watching six different governors manage the state over the past thirty-five years I’ve noticed that Democrat or Republican, in good time and bad, they have all followed the golden rule that it is mandatory for the Public Schedule to be honest and accurate.
It doesn’t mean that governors don’t have closed-door meetings or that governor might even attempt to have secret meetings, but when an event is put on the Public Schedule it must be accurate because the state’s entire media system uses that document to identify when and where to allocate their resources.
From a political strategist’s stand-point, I have to say that something has been amiss with Malloy’s “anti-teacher/education reform” approach. At times like these politicians are seeking to maximize the political benefit of a given decision and no one does that more than the Malloy Administration. It is not an accident that Malloy’s speech writer put in “all teachers have to do is show up for four years and they get tenure.”
So the mystery has been where are more of the examples of the governor going out of his way to be visible and available to receive the accolades of those who are backing him on his radical education reforms.
They have to be there, no matter how well they are hidden.
And now one of them has surfaced.
A few months ago, late in the afternoon on November 8, 2011, the governor’s office released their daily press advisory entitled “Gov. Malloy’s Wednesday schedule”. The information pertained to his public schedule for November 9, 2011 and the form and content looked like any other day:
“GOV. MALLOY’S WEDNESDAY SCHEDULE:
(HARTFORD, CT) – On Wednesday morning, Governor Dannel P. Malloy will address the members of the Two Storm Panel at the beginning of their scheduled meeting to discuss the working group’s expanded scope, which now includes a review of the recent October nor’easter in addition to Tropical Storm Irene. The group was formed by Governor Malloy in the immediate aftermath of the tropical storm and is now charged with reviewing the preparedness, response and recovery efforts of the state and its partners – including the utilities and municipalities – related to the two storms.
Later Wednesday evening, Governor Malloy will deliver the keynote address at the National Executive Services Corps (NESC) annual meeting in New York City, where he will speak about his efforts to reinvent Connecticut and jumpstart the state’s economy to create new jobs for the 21st century. NESC is a nonprofit organization that assists other nonprofits in Connecticut, New Jersey and New York with operational and managerial solutions.
The ruse worked and to my knowledge not a single Connecticut reporter or media outlet bothered to travel to New York City that night to hear Governor Malloy give his standard stump speech about his “efforts to reinvent Connecticut and jumpstart the state’s economy to create new jobs for the 21st century.”
As far as the media was concerned it was a simple choice.
There was one press opportunity to tape Malloy in the morning when he addressed the Two Storm Panel or they could travel down to New York City when he speaks to the National Executive Services Corps “Annual Meeting” about his efforts to boost the state’s economy.
Considering that media entities are facing difficult economic times as well, it was an easy decision. Members of Connecticut’s press corps could get everything they needed in the morning. Hearing the governor give the same old speech on how he is saving Connecticut’s economy was simply not worth the trek.
However, what is now clear is that unbeknownst to Connecticut’s media and reporters, there was no National Executive Services Corps “Annual Meeting” in New York City that night. Someone decided that misleading the press was worth it – and in my experience that type of decision could only be made by the Governor, the Governor’s Chief of Staff or, in this case, the Governor’s Chief Adviser who also happens to by his speech writer.
Had reporters been told the truth, someone would have undoubtedly gone to the event and discovered that Malloy’s participation had nothing to do with the state’s troubled economy.
Dan Malloy was there for one purpose, and one purpose only and that was to attend the NESC’s 7th annual Gala Dinner. His role was to introduce the guest of honor, Greenwich Millionaire and charter school champion Jonathan Sackler.
The same Jonathan Sackler who helped form Achievement First along with Dacia Toll, who now serves as President and CEO of Achievement First. Connecticut Education Commissioner Stefan Pryor also helped create Achievement First and served as a Director on Achievement First’s board until he resigned to design and implement Malloy’s “Education Reform” plan.
The same Jonathan Sackler that was the founding chairman of ConnCAN (the Connecticut Coalition for Achievement Now Inc.) – the well-financed advocacy group that is coordinating and paying most of the costs of the effort to advertise and support Malloy’s proposal.
The same Jonathan Sacker who set up ConnCAN’s unknown sister organization called the Connecticut Coalition for Achievement Advocacy Inc. which poured more than half a million dollars into legislative lobbying over the past few years helping to get Achievement First more money and a special law exempting charter schools from having to have all their teachers certified.
And the same Jonathan Sackler also formed the national charter school lobby group called 50CAN, a multi-state bring the ConnCAN model to other states. Two of their initial successes – Rhode Island (RI-CAN) and New York (NY-CAN), both states where Achievement First is aggressively trying to expand so that they can meet their goal of having 35 schools in the next few years so that they organization will be larger than 95% of the school districts in the nation. 50CAN is now expanding to Minnesota and Maryland and intends to have operations in half the 50 states in the next few years.
Finally, it is the same Jonathan Sackler who serves on the investment committee and of en entity called the NewSchools Venture Fund which has “invested” over $6,190,500 into Achievement First in the last few years, Sackler played a prominent role in the 2010 NewSchools Venture Fund Annual Conference that featured US Secretary of Education Arne Duncan instructing education reforms about “how they can become more savvy about communicating their goals and accomplishments.” See: http://vimeo.com/13581600.
Sackler’s involvement with the NewSchools Venture Fund also ties in Jim Peyser, a partner at NewSchools and one of the more recent additions to the Achievement First Board of Directors.
The Gala Dinner was chaired by Andrew Boas. Boas is Chairman of Achievement First – Bridgeport Academy and was, up until recently, a Board Member of the overall Achievement First Board. He is also a founding member of ConnCAN’s Board of Directors and Chairman and Founder of the Charter Oak Challenge Foundation which partnered with Achievement First to create the Achievement First Bridgeport Academy.
Other Gala Chairs included Stewart H. Greenfield, another member of ConnCAN’s Advisory Board of Directors and his son Matthew Greenfield, as well as, John N. Irwin III, a member of ConnCAN’s Advisory Board of Directors who bills himself as the “pioneer in the field of leveraged buyouts” in the United States.
Since the Connecticut Press Corp. was mislead on the event and therefore failed to properly cover Malloy’s speech we may never know exactly what was said or who as there.
But the timing is certainly interesting.
Achievement First’s Stefan Pryor had recently become Connecticut’s Commissioner of Education. Did he attend the Gala Dinner for his former colleague?
What about Governor Malloy’s then Chief of Staff who not only worked with Sackler but is a member of ConnCAN’s Advisory Board of Directors. Was he there?
Was Allen Taylor, the long-time chairman of the State Board of Education that has fallen in line with the Governor’s proposal without proper public hearing and debate? He too is a member of ConnCAN’s Advisory Board of Directors.
The list goes on and on.
At the very time that Governor Malloy, Commissioner of Education Stefan Pryor and other key Malloy Administration advisors were putting together the Governor’s “education reform” plan, the Governor travels to New York City to honor the man who has helped mastermind Achievement First’s push for the widespread development of charter schools.
And only weeks later the Governor proposes an education reform plan that the single greatest beneficiary is Achievement First — the people who attended that New York event to hear Governor Dan Malloy speak — a speech billed as an address on economic development to a meeting that didn’t even take place.
If the media had been told it was a Gala Dinner in which Malloy was going to celebrate the life of the Achievement First’s champion and one of the nation’s leading supporters of Charter Schools you can assume someone from the media would have realized it might be an opportunity to see what Malloy was preparing. But, the media didn’t go, and they didn’t go because they were told – point blank – that the Governor’s speech was about his economic development plan.
So yes, I’ve seen Governors engage in a lot of strange and suspicious political maneuvers over the past 35 years, but this one is a first.
I’ve never seen a Governor’s Office use the public schedule as a way to mislead reporters from finding out what the Governor is really speaking about at an event.