Billionaire, Microsoft founder, college drop-out and charter school champion Paul Allen’s yacht, the MV Tatoosh, severely damaged 14,000 square feet of coral reef in the Cayman Island’s Coral Replenishment Zone earlier this month. Local officials have reported that, “about 80% of the reef, situated in a protected area, was destroyed by the ship’s chain.”
A spokesman for Allen initially claimed that published reports were exaggerated and that it was the Cayman Islands’ harbor master’s fault for mooring the boat in that location. Now, faced with a possible $600,000 fine, Allen has apparently dispatched a team to help deal with the damage his yacht did to the coral reef.
Paul Allen, who is worth $18 Billion, sits at the #27 spot on Forbes’ list of American billionaires and #51 on list of all the billionaires in the world. Allen, a childhood friend of Bill Gates, drop-out from Washington State University and formed Microsoft with Gates after Gates dropped out of Harvard.
In the small world department, Donald Trump purchased Paul Allen’s Boeing 757-200 in 2011. Now called “Trump Force One,” the plane serves as the visual backdrop for many of Trump’s photo ops. The plane, retrofitted to Trump’s demands includes, “A master bath with 24-karat gold fixtures… In fact, virtually every fixture in the plane is 24-karat gold plated! Even the seat belts!”
But back to Paul Allen…
Widely recognized for his philanthropic generosity of conservation projects and programs to improve health care and educational opportunities for girls in the 3rd world, Allen won acclaim in December 2013 when he sold his private island in Washington State and donated $100 million to help with the emerging Ebola Crisis.
Allen owns the Trail Blazers, Seattle Seahawks and Seattle Sounders, a leading American soccer team. He also ranks as the 8th wealthiest yacht owner in the world with three mega-yachts including; the Tatoosh, the 49th largest private yacht in the world; the Octopus, which is even larger than the Tatoosh, and the smaller Méduse.
While Paul Allen uses some his money to expand educational opportunities for girls in poor nations, when it comes to public students of the United States, Allen, like his childhood buddy Bill Gates, is using his fortune to undermine public education by promoting the charter school industry and the corporate education reform agenda.
Grants from Allen’s private foundation include, $150,000 for Stand for Children Leadership Center, a major political front group for the charter school industry.
“Reforming” the nation’s teacher training system has also been a top priority for Allen. His donations include $2.8 million to The Center for Strengthening the Teaching Profession, $550,000 to The Alliance for Education, $325,000 to a teacher training reform group funded through Foundations For A Better Oregon and $150,000 to the Business Education Compact, an entity that supports “proficiency-based teaching and learning.”
Digital Learning Commons, an effort to shift children to online courses has received $350,000 from Paul Allen, while Teach For America has collected at least $400,000 from the billionaire.
When it comes to promoting the charter school industry, Allen’s donations include $275,000 to the Washington State Charter Schools Association, along with massive lobbying and campaign expenditures in support of efforts to build charter schools in Washington State.
After Washington State voters rejected a major charter school initiative in 1996 by a two to one margin, Bill Gates and the Charter School Industry turned to the Washington legislature to try and force Washington State to approve and fund charter schools. However, those legislative effort failed in 1997, 1998, 1999, and 2000.
As the Associated Press reported in 2000, the pro-charter school corporate education reform lobby tried to get both the legislature and the electorate to approve and fund charter schools.
Employees from Paul Allen’s company, Vulcan Inc., were dispatched to help pass pro-charter school legislation and Allen donated his lobbyist to help with the effort. Allen also put up the $700,000 to help get Initiative 729 onto the Washington State ballot. The initiative would have legalized charter schools in Washington State and required taxpayers to fund 80 new charter schools.
This time the initiative lost 52 percent to 48 percent.
Undaunted, Bill Gates, Paul Allen and the super-rich continued to fund efforts to undermine Washington State’s public school system. In a 2012 article entitled Bill Gates, other billionaires funding charter effort in Washington state, the Washington Post’s Valerie Strauss highlighted their activities reporting;
To get an understanding of how America’s wealthiest people are using some of their fortunes to drive school reform, take a look at a list of the contributors to the pro-charter school initiative on the Washington state ballot in November. The first few pages — the ones with the biggest donations — is a who’s who of billionaires.
The money is being donated to support Initiative 1240, which, if passed, would allow public charter schools to open in the state for the first time. Washington voters have rejected the opening of public charter schools three times — in 1996, 2000 and 2004 — but supporters are nothing if not persistent.
First on the list (which starts with the biggest donations and goes down) is Microsoft founder Bill Gates, with a $2 million gift dated Oct. 4, 2012. He is also third on the list — with an $800,000 donation dated June 19, 2012, and he is No. 11 on the list — with a donation of $200,000, dated June 7. His aggregate total, according to the Oct. 4. report, is $3.053 million.
Another billionaire occupies the No 2 spot — Alice Walton of Walmart Stores, Inc., fame, who, unlike Gates, doesn’t live in the state. Her Oct. 5 donation is listed at $1.1 million. She is also fourth on the list, with a July 11 donation of $600,000, giving her an aggregate total of $1.7 million.
Walton is listed on the Public Disclosure Commission form as a resident of Bentonville, Ark., so you might wonder why she cares so much about charter schools in Washington State. The Walton Family Foundation has been instrumental in funding charter school and voucher initiatives around the country over the past several years.
We move to No. 5 on the list, billionaire entrepreneur Nicolas J. Hanauer of Seattle, with a $550,000 gift dated Sept. 14, which adds to his $250,000 gift on July 11, his $175,000 donation on June 28 and his June 5 donation of $25,000, for an aggregate of $1 million.
No. 6 and No. 7 are Jackie Bezos and her husband, Mike, who happen to be the parents of Amazon.com founder Jeff Bezos. They each gave $250,000, for a total of half a million, dated Aug. 28. But wait, they are also No. 13 and 14 on the list too, each with a $125,000 donation dated June 13. They are listed as living in Mercer Island, Wash.
At No. 8 is the fabulously wealthy Anne Dinning, a powerhouse at the hedge fudge giant DeShaw & Co., who gave $250,000, as did her husband, Michael Wolf, for a total of half a million for the couple. They live in New York. Wolf is No. 10 on the list.
Rounding out the top 15 is another Microsoft billionaire, Paul Allen of Seattle, who donated $100,000 on June 14.
The latest public disclosure forms show that cash contributions to the pro charter effort amount to $8.3 million. Opponents of the charter initiative say they have no wealthy donors and far less money.
This all helps illustrate what education historian Diane Ravitch referred to as “the billionaire boy’s club” (which apparently has expanded to include females) in her bestselling book, “The Life and Death of the Great American School System,” and her in subsequent writings. In this post, she wrote: “Today, the question of democracy looms large as we see increasing efforts to privatize the control of public schools. There is an even more worrisome and allied trend, and that is the growing influence of money in education politics at the state and local levels.”
This time the “big money” forces won, passing the pro-charter school initiative by a vote of 50.7 percent to 49.3 percent.
However, pro-public education advocates challenged the law in the courts and Washington State’s Supreme Court recently ruled the new law was unconstitutional.
But have no fear, Bill Gates, Paul Allen and the other the corporate elite behind education reform continue their fight to force Washington State voters to accept and pay for charter schools.
As for Allen and his collection of mega yachts, Boat International magazine explains;
Tatoosh, a five-deck yacht displacing 3,616 tonnes, was built for cellphone magnate Craig McCaw and later sold to Microsoft co-founder Paul Allen. A model of understated luxury, she has a huge owner’s suite with a full-beam bedroom, family room, observation lounge, office, gymnasium and two cabins for children. Six guest cabins are located on the lower deck. Aside from the main and dining saloons, there are a panoramic lounge and cinema.
Other facilities include two helipads with refueling equipment, one for the yacht’s own McDonnell Douglas MD500 and one for guests’ helicopters; a 12 metre speedboat and a Frers-designed 13 metre sailboat positioned in davits to port and starboard; a swimming pool; and a diving room with decompression chamber in the stern.
Tatoosh is manned by a full-time crew of 30, with facilities available for visiting staff and the helicopter pilot.
The Tatoosh is the yacht that damaged the Cayman Island coral reef.
Then there is the Octopus which is “one the world’s largest yachts.” Superyachtfan.com notes;
Octopus has a large helicopter hangar on the main deck, giving shelter to two helicopters. The yacht has a large glass bottom pool and a 10 person submarine. The submarine and the main tender (named Man of War) float into the yacht through a large hatch. The yacht has a music recording studio on the bridge deck. Other features include an observation lounge, a cinema, a juice bar near a gym, a salon and a medical centre. The owner has his dedicated deck, with a large study, a walk-in closet and an outside bar with whirlpool. There is a large VIP cabin, 4 guest cabins, a children’s cabin and two additional staff/doctors cabins.
And finally, the Méduse, a smaller 60 meter superyacht which is equipped with a “large helicopter and with a diving recompression chamber, elevator, cinema, gymnasium and two staterooms on deck, plus 4 other guest suites, and a nanny cabin.”
Oh, and last but not least – needless to say – none of these mega yachts are registered in the United States. In order to avoid paying US Taxes they are all registered at “off-shore” locations.