Charter School Industry drops $63,000 plus into Connecticut legislative races

With $30,000 in “Dark Money” from a New York-based entity called Real Reform Now Network and thousands more from Connecticut’s deep-pocketed charter school players, a political action committee in Connecticut is funneling tens of thousands of dollars into its effort to promote the election of a handful of candidates running for the Connecticut General Assembly.

Charters Care, a political action committee registered with the Connecticut State Elections Committee and tied to the Northeast Charter School Network, was formed in July 2013.  NECN’s Connecticut Director, Jeremiah Grace, serves the PAC’s Chair.

The dark money Real Reform Now Network is also affiliated with the Northeast Charter School Network.  The group’s contact of record is Jill Shahen, who also serves as the Managing Director of the New York based Northeast Charter School Network.

As for the rising role of Dark Money group, the Center for Responsive Politics explains;

Politically active nonprofits – principally 501(c) (4) s and 501(c) (6) s – have become a major force in federal elections over the last three cycles. The term “dark money” is often applied to this category of political spender because these groups do not have to disclose the sources of their funding – though a minority do disclose some or all of their donors, by choice or in response to specific circumstances.

These organizations can receive unlimited corporate, individual, or union contributions that they do not have to make public, and though their political activity is supposed to be limited, the IRS – which has jurisdiction over these groups – by and large has done little to enforce those limits.

In addition to the money collected from anonymous donors via Real Reform Now Network, Charter Cares PAC also raised $10,000 from both Jonathan Sackler and Brian Olson.  Sackler is a member of the Northeast Charter School Network’s Board of directors and both Sackler and Olson are founding members of ConnCAN, the charter school advocacy front group that has led the effort to promote Governor Dannel Malloy’s corporate education reform initiatives.  Other Major donors to Charter Cares PAC include Andrew Boas ($4,500), Andrew Balson ($4,500) Richard Ferguson ($3,000) and Alex Johnson ($1,000).  Boas and Ferguson are board members for Achievement First, Inc., the large charter school chain with schools in New York, Connecticut and Rhode Island.  Johnson is the former CEO of ConnCAN.

This isn’t the first time Real Reform Now Network has made an appearance in Connecticut.  The group also contributed significant funds to a failed effort to promote a charter school agenda in Bridgeport, Connecticut.

According to campaign finance reports filed by with the Connecticut State Elections Enforcement Commission by Charters Care, the bulk of the PAC’s money has been spent in support of State Senator Steve Cassano (D-Manchester) and State Representatives Charlie Stallworth (D-Bridgeport); Terry Adams (D-Stamford) and Andre Bumgardner (R-Groton/New London).