Education Reform, Ethics, Michelle Rhee, StudentsFirst Education Reform, Ethics, Michelle Rhee, StudentsFirst
It’s a very valid question.
It certainly appeared that StudentsFirst, Excel Brideport, Teach for America – Connecticut Chapter and other groups pushing Governor Malloy’s “education reform” bill engaged in lobbying activities that were not properly reported to the Office of State Ethics. If they did engage in those activities they could face significant penalties and fines for breaking Connecticut law.
The problem with answering the question is that there is a state law the exempts ethics complaints from Connecticut’s Freedom of Information law and sets up a different standard that give extensive protection to any group or person who is being charged with an ethics violation.
Innocent until proven guilty is the hallmark of our system of justice, but at least in criminal law, the public has a right to know whether someone has or has not been arrested.
But a very different standard exists when it comes to protecting public officials or those who may have violated the state’s ethics code.
Although these provisions were intended to protect people from being hit with frivolous ethics complaints, the present law actually prevents the public from getting information that it has a right to know.
However, a complaint alleging a violation of the Code of Ethics must remain confidential until one of the following criteria is met: (1) after a judge trial referee makes a finding of probable cause, (2) upon the request of the respondent or (3) upon an agreed resolution of the matter by consent order.
This means that while the Office of State Ethics is investigating a complaint, no one, including the person who filed the complainant, the respondent, any witnesses or the Board Members and staff of the Office of State Ethics may disclose the existence of a complaint.
And there is even a $10,000 penalty should the person filling the complaint reveals that he or she has taken that action.
Talk about a disincentive to step forward and file a complaint!
So the quick answer is that we don’t know if investigations are or are not presently taking place.
If I, for example, filed an ethics complaint against some or all of these “education reform” organizations, I could not inform my readers of that fact.
Furthermore, if someone else out there filed a complaint, they could not legally tell me that a complaint was pending.
And finally, if the Office of State Ethics began their own investigation, which is permitted under state law, then they could not inform anyone (except for the organization being investigated) that such an activity was taking place.
Now that I think about it, perhaps this is exactly the situation in which that great phrase comes into play — “Let me just say that I can neither confirm nor deny that the Office of State Ethics is investigating StudentsFirst or any other “education reform” group at this time.”
In fact, even if I could confirm such information, the law would prohibit me from doing so.
So there, for those of you who have been asking, you’ve got your answer.
Remember, he or she who writes the rules…. ah…. writes the rules.
Charter Schools, Corporate Viewpoint, Education Reform, Malloy, Michelle Rhee, Steven Adamowski, StudentsFirst Adamowski, Education Reform, Malloy, Michelle Rhee, StudentsFirst
A few readers have complained that it’s been unfair to single out Governor Malloy for his support of “education reform.” Despite the fact that he proposed the most anti-teacher, anti-union proposal of any Democratic governor in the nation, these apologists claim that there are lots of Democrats supporting Michelle Rhee and the corporate reformers.
Well, these Malloy defenders will be happy to hear that a few days ago a small group of Democratic state legislators joined their Republican colleagues in Missouri to pass a ‘reform” package there that includes outlawing the use of seniority when it comes to teacher contracts.
The bill passed by a vote of 83-78 (one vote more than constitutionally required in Missouri).
Democratic Minority Leader Mike Talboy, one of a group of legislators who had recently received campaign contributions directly from StudentsFirst switched sides providing the “reformers” with the votes necessary to pass the bill. Not only are corporate contributions allowed in Missouri, but corporations can give unlimited amounts to political campaigns and can do so during the legislative session.
According to published reports from Missouri, “the bill initially did not have the required constitutional majority of 82 votes, but the voting board was held open for nearly fifteen minutes while House Majority Floor Leader Tim Jones and other caucus leaders walked the floor, pressuring representatives to change their votes. Eventually, enough votes were changed to pass the bill by a vote of 83-76, one more than the required majority and the board was closed.” Representative Jones was another one of the legislators to recently receive a campaign contribution from StudentsFirst.
Originally the bill also required that 50 percent of a teacher’s annual evaluation must reflect the standardized test scores of their students. In Missouri, the mandated link between evaluations and standardized test score was removed prior to the final passage of the legislation, whereas in Connecticut, Malloy’s plan now provides for a 10 district pilot program linking evaluations and test scores before the concept is spread statewide.
Considering test scores are linked to many factors beyond a teacher’s control, such as poverty and language barriers, neither the Malloy Administration nor the Republicans in Missouri have been able to articulate how linking evaluations and test scores will work.
For example, is a 5 percent improvement in a low-income district the same as a 1 percent change in a high income district?
Alternatively, if a teacher with 20 students has four special needs students and four students who aren’t proficient in the English language, is a 2 percent improvement in test scores the same as a 2 percent improvement for a teacher with 22 students of which five have special education needs and two face language barriers?
As we know from their work here in Connecticut, the most effective way reformers improve test scores is by removing the lowest performing students from taking the test at all.
When Windham’s Special Master, Steven Adamowski, was superintendent of schools in Hartford, he won renown for increasing test scores by 4 to 5 percent. It was only later that researchers discovered that the success in raising test scores was statistically due to the fact he removed 10 percent of Hartford’s lowest performing students from the pool of students who even took the Connecticut Master Tests. You have to give them an A for ingenuity.
Surprisingly, despite a major report on the maneuver published this year by Connecticut Voices for Children, Governor Malloy overlooked the facts when his “education reform” road show stopped in Windham. There, Malloy publicly applauded Adamowski’s track record in getting Hartford test scores up.
Meanwhile, none of these issues seem to bother the corporate “reforms” who continue to “invest” in the blossoming education reform industry.
Here in Connecticut “education reformers” spent over a million dollars in the last three months to support Malloy’s “education reform.” It should come as no surprise that in states like Missouri, where corporations can donate directly to legislators, groups such as StudentsFirst successfully used that strategy, handing out checks in the days immediately leading up to the vote on the reforms they were supporting.
Education Reform, Malloy, Michelle Rhee, StudentsFirst Education Reform, Malloy, Michelle Rhee, StudentsFirst
Imagine. Knowing you are always right…
And regardless of whether you are right or wrong, having the resources to influence public policy at any time and in any place around the nation.
GNEPSA – the group formerly known as StudentsFirst (well, the group StudentsFirst created to be their more politically acceptable front in Connecticut), dropped another $283,889 on behalf of Governor Malloy’s “Education Reform” bill in the last month of the legislative session. That brings her reported total Connecticut lobbying expenditures over the past three months to just about $640,000 and counting.
Michelle Rhee, the woman Malloy refused to stand with at an “education” rally was, none the less, kind enough to pay for a half a million dollars in radio and television advertising proclaiming Malloy and his plan the savior when it came to putting Connecticut’s public education system on track. Trashing teachers and their unions throughout the ad, Rhee’s operatives were kind enough to mention Malloy’s name no less than 8 times during the 30 and 60 second spots.
And on May 9th, as Governor Malloy crowed about his “victory” over the forces dedicated to the “status quo,” the most anti-teacher, anti-union force in the “Education Reform” industry packed up and headed on to the next battle ground.
Readers will recall the arrival of StudentsFirst and GNEPSA earlier this Session.
Initially StudentsFirst set up an office in Hartford and hired DePino Associates to lobby for them at the Capitol. Michelle Rhee, Founder and CEO of StudentsFirst, came to Hartford on March 14th to speak at a Capitol rally, lobby officials and conduct media interviews.
But what stuck out was how the paperwork they filed with the Office of State Ethics didn’t reflect reality. Actually, now it turns out that in February, StudentsFirst DID register but almost immediately withdrew their registration and, instead, a group called GNEPSA registered but listed StudentsFirst employees as their organization’s representatives.
By February 17, 2012, Angelia Dickens (StudentsFirst’s General Counsel) filed that second set of paperwork. One of StudentsFirst’s Vice Presidents was listed as a “Principal Officer or Director” of GNEPSA and StudentsFirst’s Chief Operating Officer was listed as the person responsible for overseeing the group’s lobbying activities in the state.
Nearly 60 days later, on April 11th, Jeri Powell, another attorney with StudentsFirst filed amended paperwork, again under the name of GNEPSA, for 7 employees of StudentsFirst to lobby in Connecticut (including Michelle Rhee who had already been lobbying in the state a month earlier). The report also back-dated the names of seven StudentsFirst employees who were now listed as having been lobbying since about February 22, 2012.
On top of all that (two days earlier, on April 9th), Angelia Dickens, the StudentsFirst General Counsel who filed the original paperwork in February, filed GNEPSA’s mandatory quarterly lobbying report showing that GNEPSA had spent $1,684.45 in February and another $4,469.48 in March to lobby the Legislature, along with $326,120 for television ads, $18,225 for fundraising activities and $8,362.22 on other expenses.
Oh, and last but not least, on April 9th, the same day GNEPSA filed its quarterly report, StudentsFirst also purchased GNEPSA.org through GODaddy.com. The required paperwork revealing that the Director of Technology at StudentsFirst was the individual purchasing the website name.
Why go through these gyrations?
Because someone, probably based here, was smart enough to appreciate that in a Democratic state like Connecticut it was far better to end the radio and television ads with the words paid for by GNEPSA rather than paid for by StudentsFirst, an organizations that has received its funding from some of the biggest anti-Democratic corporate leaders including Rubert Murdoch.
It was at that point that Brian Lockhart, the reporter for the Stamford Advocate and Hearst newspapers, started digging into the story and finally managed to get a response about all these developments from StudentsFirst.
The StudentsFirst spokesperson wrote;
“You got us. When we listed the CEO of StudentsFirst on GNEPSA’s public disclosure forms, designed GNEPSA’s logo to be derivative of the StudentsFirst logo and had the GNEPSA website take you to the StudentsFirst website* where you saw a StudentsFirst TV ad, we were sure no one would know GNEPSA and StudentsFirst were connected. All joking aside, it’s not uncommon for advocacy groups to use different names when carrying out different functions. Our 13,000-plus Connecticut members have been working in the state for over a year organizing at the grass-roots. And with this important legislation being debated now we are looking at a number of different vehicles to carry their voice to the legislature. You’ll be hearing more about GNEPSA and our other StudentsFirst effort in the coming days.”
I guess you have to give them credit for their honesty. Their decision to break Connecticut’s ethics laws was because “it’s not uncommon for advocacy groups to use different names in carrying out different functions.”
I’m actually not sure if it is or isn’t common, but in Connecticut it is illegal.
And as pointed out in an earlier post, the StudentsFirst spokesman also admitted that they have been engaged in lobbying here in Connecticut for over a year, despite the fact that they only registered to lobby in February (if what they did even counts as registering.)
Now, one would assume the Office of State Ethics is presently engaged in an investigation into what appear multiple violations of Connecticut law by StudentsFirst, GNEPSA and Michelle Rhee.
If such an investigation is taking place, it will be interesting to see how and when it is resolved. Those of you who keep a close eye on Connecticut state government will remember that as a result of Governor Malloy’s state re-organization plan last year, the Office of State Ethics, which was originally created to be an independent watchdog agency, has now been folded into the new Office of Governmental Accountability where it reports to a Chief Operating Officer appointed by Malloy.
That said it’s not like Michelle Rhee doesn’t have the money to pay a few bucks for violating Connecticut Ethics Laws. At worst, the penalties are only $10,000 per violation, pocket change for the likes of Rhee and her accomplices.
Education Reform, Malloy, Michelle Rhee, Stefan Pryor, StudentsFirst Education Reform, Malloy, Michelle Rhee
Turns out GNEPSA stands for the Great New England Public Schools Alliance.
Or, if you squint your eyes really tight, you might also see the words StudentsFirst.
Brian Lockhart, of the Stamford Advocate, Hearst Newspaper wrote a story entitled “StudentsFirst … I mean GNEPSA … sends out slick mailer” (click the title to read).
Lockhart is the first reporter to examine the intrigue behind the GNEPSA/StudentsFirst issue.
Linking to a Wait, What? blog post about GNEPSA, Lockhart, on his blog entitled Political Capitol, shines a bright light on the StudentsFirst connection writing “what’s interesting is while GNEPSA is a new name in what some have called the “education reform alphabet soup,” it’s not. As others have also pointed out, GNEPSA’s filing with the Office of State Ethics lists seven in-house lobbyists on GNEPSA’s payroll with email addresses linking them to another group –California-based StudentsFirst. And one of those lobbyists is StudentsFirst’s founder, Michelle Rhee.”
Lockhart adds “I’m just wondering why StudentsFirst decided to create a new group – GNEPSA. Are there legal and/or organizational reasons? Or is there some concern the StudentsFirst brand has been a bit tainted in Connecticut? And isn’t this all a bit too confusing? And did they actually mean “Greater” – not “Great” – New England in their name?
It turns out that after calling around; Lockhart then received an unbelievably incredible response from StudentsFirst who issued a statement saying;
“You got us. When we listed the CEO of StudentsFirst on GNEPSA’s public disclosure forms, designed GNEPSA’s logo to be derivative of the StudentsFirst logo and had the GNEPSA website take you to the StudentsFirst website* where you saw a StudentsFirst TV ad, we were sure no one would know GNEPSA and StudentsFirst were connected. All joking aside, it’s not uncommon for advocacy groups to use different names when carrying out different functions. Our 13,000-plus Connecticut members have been working in the state for over a year organizing at the grass roots. And with this important legislation being debated now we are looking at a number of different vehicles to carry their voice to the legislature. You’ll be hearing more about GNEPSA and our other StudentsFirst effort in the coming days.”
- Nancy Zuckerbrod, StudentsFirst spokesperson
Lockhart concludes “* There’s no mention of a GNEPSA website on the mailer and it’s hard to find on the Internet unless you specifically perform a Google search for GNEPSA.org. And then you are redirected to StudentsFirst. Phew! I really need a drink).”
What Brian Lockhart has now dug up is what appears to be yet another set of violations of Connecticut’s Ethics Laws.
The lack of honesty and transparency in StudentsFirst’s ethics filing could carry a $10,000 per violation fine. After reviewing their filing reports the number of potential violations was significant.
Now, the flippant response by the StudentsFirst spokesperson, raises yet a different set of issues.
StudentsFirst now claim that “All joking aside, it’s not uncommon for advocacy groups to use different names when carrying out different functions. Our 13,000-plus Connecticut members have been working in the state for over a year organizing at the grass roots. And with this important legislation being debated now we are looking at a number of different vehicles to carry their voice to the legislature”
First, according to their sworn ethics filings, StudentsFirst or GNEPSA or whoever they claim to be did not begin lobbying in Connecticut until February 2012. If in fact they have been working in Connecticut for over a year they have been engaged in lobbying without registering, as required by the state ethic’s law. Someone who did that last year was fined $10,000 by t he Ethics Commission.
Secondly, if there have been illegal subsidies taking place with one organization subsidizing another they have yet another set of problems.
By the way, there is a process for an organization to be doing business under different names (called DBA doing business as) but StudentsFirst has filed none of the documents necessary to allow them to function that way in Connecticut.
The status of any Office of State Ethics complaints or investigations will be covered in a separate blog later, but don’t forget there is also the potential illegal activities associated with the role the “Education Reformers’ played in the state’s failed attempt to take over the Bridgeport School System. An organization called Excel Bridgeport and two individuals, Meghan Lowney and Nate Snow (who also serves as the Director of Teach For America’s Connecticut chapter engaged in a series of communications aimed at getting the state to take over the Bridgeport Schools but never registered to lobby for those activities.
For that issue check out wait, what’s posts http://jonathanpelto.com/2012/03/26/the-bridgeport-take-over-another-example-of-justice-for-some-rather-than-justice-for-all/
Achievement First/ConnCAN, Education Reform, Malloy, Michelle Rhee, Stefan Pryor, StudentsFirst Achievement First, Malloy, Michelle Rhee, Stefan Pryor, StudentsFirst
Earlier today, StudentsFirst – yes, that’s right — Michelle Rhee’s StudentsFirst… (The organization that IS NOT LOBBYING in Connecticut) issued a press release attacking the opponents of Governor Malloy’s “Education Reform” bill.
In their press release, Tim Melton, the Vice President of Legislative Affairs for StudentsFirst argues that “since the facts aren’t on their side, they are resorting to negative and false political attacks.”
Apparently he believes that the work that the Connecticut Education Association, the American Federation of Teachers and the rest of us pro-public education people are engaged in, as we tell the truth about Malloy’s bill, is “resorting” to attacks.
Now, just to be clear, Tim Melton IS NOT the same StudentsFirst Vice President who was listed on the official State of Connecticut lobbyist filing forms as the “Principal Officer or Director” of GNEPSA (which IS the group that is lobbying in Connecticut).
That StudentsFirst Vice President was Woodhouse Enoch.
This StudentsFirst Vice President is Tim Melton.
So we now have StudentsFirst’s CEO, the “other” Vice President, the Chief Operating Officer and the Chief Legal Counsel all lobbying on behalf of Malloy’s bill – but the “other” StudentsFirst Vice President, Tim Melton, is still working for StudentsFirst.
No wait, according to GNEPSA’s April 11th ethics filing that “back-dated” their team of lobbyists, Tim Melton IS listed as a lobbyist for GNEPSA starting back on February 22nd.
Which must mean that it wasn’t StudentsFirst’s Vice President Tim Melton who put out today’s press release but the “other” other StudentsFirst Vice President Tim Melton because the first “other” StudentsFirst Vice President is already a registered lobbyist for GNEPSA.
And Malloy wonders why some of us are a bit concerned with the notion of handing over our public education system to these people.
All joking aside, it is hardly a laughing matter.
The people of Connecticut are being had by a bunch of corporate hotshots who make the Keystone Cops look efficient and capable.
We have a Commissioner of Education (who helped set up and served as a director for Achievement First, the charter school management company) pushing a bill in which the single biggest financial beneficiary of taxpayer funds is – Achievement First.
We have a Democratic Governor proclaiming, with pride, that he will veto any “education reform” bill that doesn’t give that same Commissioner the ability to take over 25 schools, fire the staff, ban collective bargaining and turn the schools over to some group of unnamed third-party entities who will then be exempt from Connecticut’s laws on bidding and the use of consultants.
And we’ve still got the issue of why the Governor put language in the bill that provides former Hartford Superintendent of Schools (now Malloy’s “Special Master” in Windham) extra pension credits because he didn’t want to follow the same Connecticut law that 45,000 teachers and 9,000 school administrators have to follow.
I said it before and I’ll say it again.
If this bill passes there will be people going to prison before Malloy’s term is over.
Education Reform, Ethics, Malloy, Michelle Rhee, StudentsFirst Education Reform, Malloy, Michelle Rhee, StudentsFirst
Perhaps in Michelle Rhee’s world our Connecticut laws are “more of what you call guidelines than actual rules.”
Wait, What? readers now know that despite the plethora of Connecticut laws requiring honest and public disclosure when it comes to lobbying state officials, Michelle Rhee’s StudentsFirst organization failed to file any of the appropriate Connecticut forms or reports despite spending over $352,000 lobbying in Connecticut during February and March of this year.
The practical impact is that if someone went to the website of the Connecticut Office of Ethics and typed in StudentsFirst they would be under the false impression the Michelle Rhee and StudentsFirst were not spending hundreds of thousands of dollars to prop up Governor Malloy’s “Education Reform” proposals.
Yes, it is true that seven staff members of StudentsFirst were registered to lobby in Connecticut,
And it’s true StudentsFirst set up an office at 100 Pearl Street in Hartford
And it’s true StudentsFirst hired DePino Associates, a Connecticut government relations company, to lobby for them in Hartford.
And it’s true that Michelle Rhee, Founder and CEO of StudentsFirst came to Connecticut on March 14th to speak at a Capitol rally, lobby officials and conduct interviews.
But StudentsFirst DID NOT lobby in Connecticut.
Instead, a group called GNEPSA registered and lobbied in Connecticut.
Well, to be more accurate, a group called GNEPSA sort of registered or at least it tried to sort of register.
Here is what we know so far…(Stay with me here it’s a bit complex and bizarre).
- On February 17, 2012, Angelia Dickens (StudentFirst’s General Counsel) filed the necessary paperwork for a group called GNEPSA to hire a lobbyist in Connecticut. Woodhouse Enoch, StudentsFirst’s Vice President was listed as a “Principal Officer or Director” of GNEPSA and Mehlhorn Dmitri, Chief Operating Officer for StudentFirst was listed as the person responsible for overseeing the group’s lobbying activities in the state.
- 35 days later, on March 23rd, Chris DiPino, of DePino Associates, filed the necessary paperwork to lobby on behalf of GNEPSA (or at least to add two more of their employees as registered lobbyists for GNEPSA).
- And 19 days after that, on April 11th, Jeri Powell, another attorney with StudentsFirst filed the necessary paperwork, under the name of GNEPSA, for 7 employees of StudentsFirst to lobby in Connecticut (including Michelle Rhee who had already been lobbying in the state a month earlier). The report back-dated the 7 employees as having been lobbying as of February 22, 2012.
- On top of all that (two days earlier, on April 9th), Angelia Dickens, the StudentsFirst General Counsel who filed the original paperwork in February, filed GNEPSA’s mandatory quarterly lobbying report showing that GNEPSA had spent $1,684.45 in February and another $4,469.48 in March to lobby the Legislature, along with $326,120 for television ads, $18,225 for fundraising activities and $8,362.22 on other expenses.
- Interestingly the report shows NO expenditure for the group’s lobbyist, despite the fact that DePino Associates had been working since February.
- Nor did the report show any expenditure for communications with the Administrative Branch of Government meaning that no one from StudentsFirst or GNEPSA had any contact with Governor Malloy or anyone in the Malloy Administration. (ah…right).
- Oh, and last but not least, on April 9th, the same day GNEPSA filed its quarterly report, StudentsFirst also purchased GNEPSA.org through GODaddy.com.
The following comes via whois.com.
Note that it is true that it’s a bit awkward that Mike Walter, the Director of Technology at StudentsFirst, is buying a website name through GODaddy on the very day that the General Counsel of StudentsFirst is filing a lobbying report claiming that none of this is being done by StudentsFirst but by a completely different group called GNEPSA…but as Captain Barboss reminded us – when it comes to these things - “the code is more of what you call guidelines than actual rules.” Welcome aboard the Black Pearl, Connecticut.
Created On:09-Apr-2012 15:29:09 UTC
Last Updated On:09-Apr-2012 15:29:10 UTC
Expiration Date:09-Apr-2014 15:29:09 UTC
Sponsoring Registrar:GoDaddy.com, LLC (R91-LROR)
Registrant Name:Mike Walter
Registrant Street1:825 K Street
Registrant Street2:Second Floor
Registrant Postal Code:95817
Registrant Phone: +1.9162879228
Registrant FAX Ext.:
Registrant Email:[email protected]
Some of the paperwork claims that GNEPSA is incorporated in Washington D.C., but it’s principal place of business is in Hartford, Connecticut. As of now, it has not been confirmed that GNEPSA is, in fact, incorporated in Washington DC or who the officers of GNEPSA might actually be.
And last point;
Each of the forms carries the following legal certification;
I do hereby swear or affirm, under penalty of false statement, that:
- I am authorized to file this registration with the Office of State Ethics on behalf of this Client Lobbyist.
- I have personally reviewed the information herein and the information contained in any attachments hereto.
- The information contained in this form and all of the attachments hereto (if any) are true, correct, and complete to the best of my knowledge, information, and belief.
- If, at any point in time, I become aware that the information contained herein, or on any attachment, is inaccurate or incomplete I will timely amend the form so that the information is true, correct and complete.
- Any amendment made to this form in the future will be true, correct and complete.
- Any reports required to be filed during the period for which this registration is active will be true, correct, and complete to the best of my knowledge, information and belief.
LOBBYING UNDERTAKEN BY MEMBER(S) WHO HAS(HAVE) NOT CERTIFIED THIS REGISTRATION MAY RESULT IN PENALTIES OF UP TO $10,000.
Good thing Robert Murdoch and some of the other right-wing corporate people are pumping money into Michelle Rhee’s organization(s). She is going to need it to pay the fines for all these violations of Connecticut’s lobbying laws.
Charter Schools, Education Reform, Malloy, Stefan Pryor Education Reform, Malloy, Michelle Rhee, StudentsFirst
The 2012 “Education Reformers” – They bully, they’re arrogant and they appear to believe that the law applies to others but not them.
As Michelle Rhee and the other out-of-state “Education Reformers” pour into Connecticut to join their allies in the effort to Governor Malloy’s ill-conceived “Education Reform” bill you’d think they’d recognize the importance of following Connecticut’s laws.
But apparently these “Education Reformers” either believe they are above the law on simply don’t care if they get fined for violating the lobbyist rules we have in place.
Connecticut law is simple and direct. A lobbyist is any person who either spends or receives $2,000 or more in a calendar year to communicate with, or to solicit others to communicate with, any official or his or her staff in the legislative or executive branch, or in a quasi-public agency, in an effort to influence legislative or administrative action.
Furthermore the $2,000 threshold includes Legislative Lobbying, Administrative Lobbying or activities in furtherance of Lobbying – such as “expenditures for research, reports, polls, media buys, activities fostering good will, office expenses, secretarial or paralegal salaries, etc.; essentially the activities that support the actual lobbying efforts.”
The entire system is based on the notion that the public, the media and elected officials have a fundamental and legal right to know who is spending money to try and influence government in our state.
It’s called Public Disclosure; And how are the “reformers” doing?
Example #1: Michelle Rhee, the vehemently anti-teacher, anti-union head of a national organization called StudentsFirst attended a rally on March 14, 2012 on the Capitol steps, met with various elected officials and her organization is paying for most of the televisions ads that are running in support of Malloy’s “Education Reform” bill.
How much are they spending and what other lobbying are they engaged in?
That should be easy to check. The law requires that when an individual or organization wants to lobby they must file papers with the Office of State Ethics and then provide monthly and quarterly reports on their lobbying expenditures.
So, go to the State Ethics Office and look up StudentsFirst or Michelle Rhee and you find NOTHING. No paperwork at all for StudentsFirst. But we know they are lobbying on behalf of Malloy’s bill – they are even running television ads – so where are their records.
Turns out they filed under the name of GNEPSA and the official filing papers make no mention of StudentsFirst. A Hartford office building is listed as their address and they even claim that although they were “incorporated” in Washington D.C., their “Principal Place of Business” is Hartford Connecticut.
Okay, so we type GNEPSA into Google – and all we get is information on some entertainment website.
The law mandates public disclosure….
okay, let’s try www.gnepsa.org (and you are magically transported to (www.studentsfirst.org).
No explanation or reference about why GNEPSA is the fake front name for StudentsFirst.
So much for public disclosure.
If you want to know what Michelle Rhee and her group are spending in Connecticut you have to know they are attempting to “fulfill the provisions of the law” by filing under a different name.
Oh, and it turns out that over the last 8 – 9 weeks, Michelle Rhee has spent $355,861.
$252,000 of that is for her television ads and for raising money and $10,000 or so related to the March 14th rally and getting their operation up and running in Connecticut. Spending that much money on the rally, in turn, is yet another legal violation since the sponsors of the rally weren’t even registered to lobby.
They’ve also hired the former chairman of the Republican State Party to be one of their lobbyists for another $48,000 for the 3 month legislative session.
It will be interesting to see what the Ethics Commission does with an organization that openly violates the spirit of Connecticut’s law by purposely misleading and preventing people from tracking down the reports that lobbyists must file.
If you think StudentsFirst behavior is unsavory, just wait till you see what some of the “Education Reform” groups are doing side-step Connecticut law.