Oops – and here I thought it was an annual meeting and not a Gala Dinner

Governors engage in a fair number of strange and suspicious political maneuvers – but this one is a first.

Photo courtesy of the Yale Club

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:


(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.

  • I don’t doubt any of the above except your statement that Sackler is a “Greenwich Millionaire” I imagine he is a billionaire, no?

  • Great reporting.

    • jonpelto

      Ken, coming from you that is an amazing complement. Thank you.

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  • Sharewhut

    C’mon, is anyone surprised anymore about the ‘stuff” that trickles (well, okay, gushes) out of the sewer pipe that is this administration?
    At first I thought Danny was simply positioning for an Obama appointment. Now I see him starting to line up the million/billionaire “you owe me one” contributors for, who knows. a 2016 pres or veep run? Heck, with what he’s doing to municipal unions I half expect him to start courting TEA partiers..

  • brutus2011

    Thank you for the information. .The plot thickens!

  • Prester John

    GREAT story that reveals much about Dan,if you were not aware already.
    Because mainstream press was dying and few read the alternative press (it was just a bit early for explosions of blogs) Dan dealings in steakhouses upstate,when he should have been in Stamford taking care of business, were relatively un-reported. He always likes that venue…red meat and red wine and cigars.
    Keep it up Jon. There are a lot of stories missed and many more to report on in the future because Dan is ambitious and has made his deal with the Devil.
    Again. GREAT reporting!

  • Maria B.

    When I worked for OPM an old-timer from before Grasso told me that it stood for “Other People’s Money.” And when I way there most of what we did was grab grants for anything and everything…
    Charter schools seem to be here whether we like or want them. Malloy seems to be doing what comes naturally in Ct. — getting others to pay for what we cannot or will not do for ourselves.
    I think that for profit charter schools is a slippery slope, and we are already almost at the bottom. But with them comes a placebo effect in something new — for both teachers and students. And if this works for a few kids it will be better than what we’re doing now.
    Finally, this is all about how to spend money we don’t have to fix the massive problem we do have.
    Yes, bringing in some charter schools will make those teacher’s salaries lower. Yet for most of the public schools in the state the contracts will be intact. Always remember that Tom Foley was going to try to declare a fiscal emergency and bust all of out contracts.
    Let’s get real … the 1% will never pay what they owe, especially in CT. That leaves us to pay more and get less.. If the for profit charter schools pick up some of the costs it will help a little. and that’s all we can expect in America right now — no more than just a little help.

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  • bleakdiscourse

    Sounds like impeachable conflicts are occurring once again. I’ve read that Achievement First stands to make $10 million if this legislation passes. Is this correct? How can that not be a violation of state law and ethics rules?

  • Prester John

    You sound like a citizen of Kraków Ghetto. The mentality of “placebo effects” boggles my mind.
    Go ahead,lay down and take it. Nutmeggers seem to have made it a part of their life.
    With the lack of what used to be called mainstream press,many (perhaps the majority) are kept in the dark and people like Dan can have their way with you.
    There is a TOTAL lack of righteous indignation that lets the Rowlands,Liebermans,Shays, Dodd’s and Malloy’s have their way and we end up with TeaParty twits fighting for power.
    MariaB. You are spooky in that you represent a lot of folks in this state. Smart enough to post your opinion but not taking it to the next step.
    Fight the power,MariaB. Advice from a person who has lived other places and in different times. Things can be better and silence is the enemy of the body politic.

  • Why start here? He was in Davos for a few days with barely an inch of CT media coverage. Maybe he met up with some charter school people there. Sweden was in the area, and they have those schools, as does England. And I’m sure people from both countries were there too. It couldn’t have all been about the economy…

    • jonpelto

      Funny! PS I think you misunderstood my reference about the number of hits a good news post vs. a bad news post would get. I apologize if I seemed flippant – I was responding to your comment that I never post good news – meaning – if I did start posting good news would you still read it. After reading the comments of that Malloy aide and Rick Green I have to ask – what exactly have I gotten wrong – “factually” that is.

      There are plenty of columnists out there – and I certainly have my “political orientation” but I try very hard to bring the real facts into the debate.”

      If you run into either of them perhaps you could ask them – exactly what facts did I get wrong – and if I did – I will immediately acknowledge my mistakes and correct them.

      • I’d definitely still read your writings whether good or bad. Because it is an insight I would not experience otherwise. Its different, sometimes contentious and frustrating to me personally, but I respect it.

        This entry however, despite the factual information on members (their names and career histories) and that he was in New York. But after that, you question yourself who was/was not there, and your conclusions come across as though you’re building up an afterward to the “Ides of March” film. But perhaps I am just simply being too much of an early Meyers when I should actually be a Duffy (If you know the reference. If not, I’d highly recommend the movie).

  • Prester John

    Once Dan gets into the swing of things and hits his stride,you can expect more of the same.He has an amazing sense of entitlement.
    He LOVES the body guards,limos,helicopters,travel of all sorts (as long as he is not paying) and you KNOW he can hardly wait to have a SuperPac all his own. And the donors already own him. This was the candidate who raised a whopping $47,000 of $8,460,089 in campaing funds. Taxpayers supplied the rest.
    A bit off topic,I suppose,but the message is: beware Dan Malloy. He will do anything to get to the next level.

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