Achievement First/ConnCAN, Campaign Finance, Democratic Legislators, Malloy, Michelle Rhee, State Legislature, State Politics, Stefan Pryor, StudentsFirst Achievement First, ConnAD, ConnCAN, Michelle Rhee, StudentsFirst 12 Comments
Official reports indicate that Connecticut’s primary “education reform” group was part of Rhee’s attempt to influence the outcome of this week’s Democratic Primary
It turns out that when Michelle Rhee dumped tens of thousands into this week’s re-vote to select the Democratic nominee in the General Assembly’s 5th House District, she wasn’t acting alone.
Initial media reports pointed out that the money being spent by the Greater New England Public School Alliance, Rhee’s front group, in support of Brendan McGee and against Leo Canty came from Rhee’s national organization, StudentsFirst, as well as from, New York Mayor Michael Bloomberg and Steve Perry, the head of Hartford’s Capital Preparatory Magnet School.
But the media missed the fourth key donor to the Greater New England Public School Alliance’s massive spending effort. According to those same reports, the fourth major donor was none-other-than ConnAD, the Connecticut Coalition for Achievement Advocacy, Inc., the sister organization of ConnCAN, the Connecticut Coalition for Achievement Now, Inc.
Both organizations are directed by Patrick Riccards, ConnCAN’s CEO, and both organizations were created by the very same people who created and have been funding Achievement First, Inc., the Charter School Management company that was actually co-founded by Stefan Pryor, Malloy’s Commissioner of Education.
ConnAD and ConnCAN’s effort to influence public policy is extensive. Even before Governor Malloy’s “education reform” bill was proposed, these two organizations spent more than half a million dollars lobbying on behalf of charter schools.
The two organizations ramped up their lobbying after Governor Malloy and Commissioner Pryor introduced Malloy’s “education reform” bill. Although their ethics reports appear to be filled out incorrectly, in violation of Connecticut’s ethics laws, it appears that ConnAD, the Connecticut Coalition for Achievement Advocacy, Inc., spent nearly $825,000 in their effort to pressure legislators to support Malloy’s bill.
At the same time, ConnCAN, the Connecticut Coalition for Achievement Now, Inc., appears to have spent another $230,000 lobbying Malloy’s bill, bringing the total expenditures by the two Connecticut based groups to over $1,000,000. That doesn’t even count the historic lobbying expenditure by Michelle Rhee.
What these latest State Election Enforcement Commission reveal is that Patrick Riccards, ConnAD and ConnCAN have now moved past their efforts to influence policy through their lobbying and have begun to directly campaign for and against individual candidates.
However, due to the way ConnAD was set up, it doesn’t need to disclose where it gets its funding. This loophole means that Connecticut citizens don’t know who actually paid for last spring’s historic lobbying effort or who is presently behind the effort to impact the outcome of these Democratic primaries.
At this point, the only piece that is known is that Michelle Rhee, with the help of Connecticut education reformers got deeply involved in this week’s Democratic primary.
After an initial primary, two recounts and a judicial order for a re-vote, the voters of Hartford and Windsor choose Brandon McGee over Leo Canty, to be the Democratic nominee in the General Assembly’s 5th House District, on Tuesday.
While the battle was mostly a local one, Michelle Rhee’s effort to influence the outcome garnered national attention. As noted, Michelle Rhee’s Greater New England Public Schools Alliance spent an unprecedented amount in support of McGee and against Canty.
So why would one of the country’s leading “education reformers,” along with ConnAD and ConnCAN, target a particular candidate in a Democratic primary, when that house seat is just one of 187 house and senate seats in Connecticut?
The reason seems to be due to the fact that Leo Canty serves as a leader in the Connecticut chapter of the American Federation of Teachers.
The fact that Michelle Rhee would leave the national stage to target a particular candidate in a Connecticut legislative primary is surprising enough. The revelation that Connecticut’s primary education reform group would actually help fund such a campaign effort, is, quite frankly, unbelievable.
ConnAD and ConnCAN have been closely aligned with Governor Malloy and Commissioner Pryor. In fact, Commissioner Pryor has publicly credited ConnCAN for their help in passing Malloy’s bill.
With ConnAD and ConnCAN now funding an independent campaign to defeat an individual Democratic candidate because they belong to a teacher’s union raises some extraordinarily serious questions about who was involved in these decisions and whose money was actually being used.
The initial press reports were that the Greater New England Public Schools Alliance spent about $32,000 in their independent campaign to influence the outcome of the primary. However, additional reports were submitted in the final days of the primary indicating that other expenditures were made. It should be noted though that the reports are so poorly completed that it is difficult to determine exactly how much Rhee’s group spent.
The following amounts were submitted to the State Elections Enforcement Commission:
|Greater New England Public Schools Alliance||9/26/2012||$31,977.51|
|Greater New England Public Schools Alliance||9/28/2012||$5,606.18|
|Greater New England Public Schools Alliance||10/2/2012||$8,889.43|
|Greater New England Public Schools Alliance (amended report)||10/2/2012||$1,1226.00|