Right Wing “Think Tank” engaged in effort to persuade teachers to be climate change deniers

The Heartland Institute is an Illinois based conservative “think tank” and advocacy group that is focused on building support for conservative ideas such as charter schools and vouchers, all while promoting its broader, right-wing political agenda.

Last year, the Heartland Institute applauded Governor Dannel Malloy’s anti-public education, pro-charter school agenda proclaiming,

Charter schools will receive increased government support if Connecticut Gov. Dannel Malloy’s (D) proposed budget for fiscal year 2017 passes.

Malloy’s budget proposal increases state aid for public charter schools by $9.3 million and reduces state taxpayers’ funding of traditional local government schools by more than $11 million.

And later in the year, the Heartland Institute returned its attention to Connecticut observing that the state of Connecticut spent enough on public education.

In a blog post on their website, the Heartland Institute went on to quote Connecticut’s Yankee Institute for Public Policy opposing additional school aid for Connecticut’s public school children and supporting the “money follows the child” funding scheme that would divert even more scarce public funds to privately owned and operated charter schools.

Now the Heartland Institute is focusing its resources on convincing school teachers in Connecticut and across the nation that climate change doesn’t exist.

In an article entitled, Democrats Condemn Climate Change Skeptics for Targeting Teachers, the media website, Frontline explained;

The Heartland Institute has spent decades promoting doubt about climate change, and it embraces a variety of arguments to that end. At its 12th annual climate change conference last month in Washington, D.C., some speakers claimed that climate change isn’t happening. Others conceded it is happening, but that humans aren’t at fault. Others still argued that even if humans are the cause, change won’t be so bad for the planet.

Apparently the organization is now engaged in an extensive effort to convince teachers to refrain for teaching about the devastating impact that climate change is having on the earth and its residents.

The Heartland Institute has or will be sending out more than 200,000 packages of anti-climate propaganda to teachers across the country.

Frontline reports,

The packages contain a book titled “Why Scientists Disagree about Climate Change” and a related DVD; both dispute the scientific consensus that climate change is a crisis.”

As for this new initiative, Frontline adds;

The organization has long had allies in the Republican party, but its influence has grown with the election of President Donald Trump, who has called climate change a hoax.  Trump chose Myron Ebell, a longtime ally of Heartland, to run his transition efforts for energy and the environment. Trump’s appointed administrator of the Environmental Protection Agency, Scott Pruitt, has also expressed doubts about the human role in climate change, and as attorney general of Oklahoma sued the very agency he now runs 14 times, including over a plan to regulate climate-warming emissions.

If any teachers in Connecticut have received or get the Heartland package, please drop me a note at [email protected]

Malloy gives Climate Change Denier $35 million in taxpayer funded corporate welfare

Despite Connecticut’s massive and growing fiscal crisis, Governor Dannel Malloy’s corporate welfare program continues to spin out of control.  This time the recipient of the Malloy administration’s taxpayer funded give-a-way program is another massive, extraordinarily profitable hedge fund, a company headed by a multi-millionaire corporate executive who is a climate change denier.

Last Wednesday, as the nation and its citizens reeled from the results of Election Day, Governor Dannel Malloy announced his decision to give Greenwich-based AQR Capital Management $35 million dollars in Connecticut taxpayer funds.

AQR Capital Management is one of the nation’s largest hedge funds, with assets of over $159 billion. The company’s CEO, Cliff Asness, is known for his Republican, Libertarian and right-wing politics, including his consistent denial that climate change is a problem facing the world.

As the Hartford Business Journal reported in, Greenwich firm to expand with $35M in state loans, grants,

Gov. Dannel P. Malloy on Wednesday announced the company’s participation in the Department of Economic and Community Development’s First Five program, providing up to $28 million in loans and up to $7 million in grants to support the firm’s $72 million expansion project. AQR Capital will retain 540 jobs as it creates new ones, Malloy said.

Since the Malloy administration’s corporate welfare program is funded through state borrowing, the $35 million gift to AQR Capital Management will cost taxpayers well in excess of $40 million.

Making the corporate subsidy all the more outrageous, AQR’s top executive has been an extremely controversial figure in the business world.

Addressing Cliff Asness’ statements, a Fortune Magazine article published on March 11, 2015 and entitled, Top hedge fund manager: Global warming isn’t a danger, reported;

One of Wall Street’s most successful hedge fund managers is once again wading into the climate change debate. His conclusion: It’s not as big of a problem as some suggest.

The hedge fund executive went on to suggest that, “based on the current pace of global warming, it will take another 500 years before the changes become a real problem.”

Connecticut crippling state debt is already making it impossible to maintain vital services and will leave future generations with impossibly high debt payments.

In fact, Governor Malloy’s unprecedented use of corporate welfare will cost Connecticut taxpayers well in excess of $1 billion and his fiscally irresponsible policies have already undermined Connecticut state government’s ability to meet its obligations in the years and decades to come.

Education reform billionaire Paul Allen’s Yacht destroys vital coral reef in Cayman Islands

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.

Malloy and Dems take giant step backwards as World Leaders negotiate effort to save the Earth from Climate Change (updated)

NOTE:  Updated with responses from Malloy administration agencies

Heralded as groundbreaking legislation designed to promote energy efficiency and reduce greenhouse gasses, in 2007, Republican Governor Jodi Rell signed legislation that “permanently” exempted weatherization products and energy-efficient light bulbs from the Connecticut State Sales Tax.

The legislation, which was overwhelmingly adopted by the Democratic-controlled Connecticut General Assembly, was cited as one of the state’s major accomplishments.

Gina McCarthy, then Connecticut’s Commissioner of Environmental Protection and now the head of the United States Environmental Protection Agency, highlighted the “landmark” legislation in her 2007 Annual State Report entitled Protecting and Restoring our Environment.

In a 2014 national EPA report on “Existing State Policies and Programs that Reduce Power Sector CO2 Emissions,” McCarthy’s agency explained the importance of “State tax incentives for energy efficiency,” writing

“…sales tax exemptions…spur private sector innovation to develop more energy efficient technologies and practices and increase consumer choice of energy-efficient products.

To this day, the federal government promotes Connecticut’s sales tax exemption law on its Department of Energy website

However, just two weeks ago as world leaders, including Gina McCarthy, worked around the clock to develop the historic Paris Agreement on Climate Change, Governor Malloy and Democrats in the Connecticut General Assembly repealed Connecticut’s important sales tax exemption on weatherization and energy-efficient light bulbs as part of their “Democratic Budget Deal.”

Why?

The reason remains a mystery, but faced with a growing state budget deficit the Democrats’ “budget mitigation bill” included a variety of budget gimmicks, significant cuts to important human services and education programs, a major tax break for General Electric (and a handful of other large companies) and a sentence repealing Connecticut General Statutes Sec. 12-412k. [The state statue that exempts residential weatherization products and energy-efficient light bulbs from the state sales tax]

Section 12-412k. (a) For purposes of this section, “residential weatherization products” means programmable thermostats, window film, caulking, window and door weather strips, insulation, water heater blankets, water heaters, natural gas and propane furnaces and boilers that meet the federal Energy Star standard, windows and doors that meet the federal Energy Star standard, oil furnaces and boilers that are not less than eighty-four per cent efficient and ground-source heat pumps that meet the minimum federal energy efficiency rating.

(b) Notwithstanding the provisions of the general statutes, the provisions of this chapter shall not apply to sales of any residential weatherization products or compact fluorescent light bulbs.

With no public notice, hearing or debate, Malloy and the legislature simply voted to eliminate the sales tax exemption on residential weatherization products and energy-efficient light bulbs as of January 1, 2016.

The move will mean that Connecticut residents trying to weatherize their homes or buy energy-efficient light bulbs will pay an additional $3.6 million in sales tax to the State of Connecticut in FY 2016 and $7.5 million in FY 2017.

But, of course, perception is always more important than reality;

The recent move to reduce Connecticut’s commitment to energy efficiency and slow climate change didn’t stop Governor Malloy from making sure he was part of the news story and photo opportunity when EPA Administrator Gina McCarthy came to Connecticut last week to talk about the Paris Agreement.

As CT Newsjunkie reported with, “EPA Chief Returns to Hartford, Touts Paris Agreement On Climate Change,”

It was a homecoming of sorts for Gina McCarthy, the current administrator of the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency who served as the head of Connecticut’s Department of Environmental Protection from 2004 through 2009.

Flanked by Gov. Dannel P. Malloy and members of the Connecticut Auto Retailers Association, McCarthy returned to … to talk about the Paris agreement, under which 195 countries have committed to reducing greenhouse gas emissions.

She said climate change is one of the biggest “economic and national security challenges of our time,” and because of the leadership of President Barack Obama, “we were able to get an agreement in Paris that everyone should be proud of.”

[…]

McCarthy said the only reason they were able to push forward with a plan to reduce emissions here in the United States and a plan to lower the temperature of the climate globally is because states like Connecticut are paving the way.

[…]

The governor said Connecticut is doing its part to address the impact of global warming.

Several years ago the state passed legislation to reduce emissions by 80 percent by 2050 and it became the first “range confident” state for electric vehicles in the nation.

“Climate change is happening. Make no mistake about that,” Malloy said. “And it’s time to take action to address the challenge in a responsible and thoughtful way.”

It’s a problem we can’t fail to act upon, Malloy added.

Yup, Governor Dannel Malloy, who now serves as the head of the Democratic Governors Association (DGA) and therefore the spokesman for the country’s Democratic Governors actually spoke up about Climate Change saying, “It’s a problem we can’t fail to act upon.”

The only problem is that Malloy failed to tell EPA Administrator Gina McCarthy, the media or the public that he had, in fact, acted…

But alas, it was in exactly the wrong direction.

Footnote:

The 2007 legislation exempting weatherization and energy-efficient light bulbs passed the Connecticut House of Representatives on June 1, 2007 by a vote of 128 -19, with both present Speaker of the House Sharkey and Majority Leader Aresimowicz voted in favor of the bill. The next day the bill passed the Connecticut State Senate by a vote of 32-3 with now President Pro-Tempore Looney and Majority Leader Duff voting “Yes.”

The advocacy group, Energy Northeast, wrote about the original sales tax exemption stating;

Illustrating the bi-partisan and diverse stakeholder appeal of legislation requiring [greater energy efficiency] is Rhode Island’s 2006 efficiency procurement law [which] passed a Democratic-majority state Senate and House unanimously and was signed at a joint press event with the sitting Republican Governor a few days later. Similarly, Connecticut’s 2007 Efficiency Procurement legislation was passed overwhelming by a Democratic-majority state legislature and signed by a Republican Governor.”

But that was then and this is now…

Eight years after the bi-partisan commitment to promoting energy efficiency and with the issue more important than ever, Connecticut’s Democratic Governor and Democratic General Assembly decided that a few million dollars in additional state revenue was more important than continuing to help Connecticut residents weatherize their homes and buy energy-efficient light bulbs.

Requests for comment were made to Governor Malloy’s Office, the Office of Policy and Management and various agencies in the Malloy administration.

The Department of Revenue Services responded by email saying  they would have no comment.

The Connecticut Department of Energy and Environmental Protection’s Communication Director responded as follows:

In these difficult financial times for our state, we recognize that tough decisions have to be made.  In order to balance the state’s budget, the General Assembly has had to look at eliminating sales tax exemptions on many products and services.

While the sales tax exemption that covered many products used for weatherizing homes was certainly an added incentive for people to take action, we believe its elimination will not have a significant impact on the public’s appetite for energy efficiency projects.

Homeowners and businesses understand the importance of weatherization and energy efficiency – and the kinds of saving that can be achieved.  This concept has become deeply embedded in people’s minds and even without an sales tax exemption there will continue to be a strong focus on saving energy.

 

 

You can read more about McCarthy’s visit to Connecticut last week via the CT Mirror’s EPA’s Gina McCarthy stops by with a Paris postcard