Democrats who oppose Democracy…

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In this Orwellian world in which  we live, how do voters deal with candidates who run as Democrats but oppose democracy…

As we all know, democracy is traditionally defined as “a system of government by the whole population or all the eligible members of a state, typically through elected representatives.”

As the name implies, Democrats traditionally believe in the fundamental elements of democracy.

But in Bridgeport, Connecticut the Democratic endorsed slate of candidates that is running in next Tuesday’s Democratic Primary have made an extraordinary effort to do away with the very Board of Education that they are now seeking to serve upon.

(Wait, What?) No, really…

It was only a year ago that these same Democratic endorsed candidates were part of a record-breaking effort to eliminate Bridgeport’s democratically elected board of education.  Having lost that effort, the “Bridgeport Democratic Machine” is now trying to convince Bridgeport voters to elect candidates who worked so hard to eliminate the Board of Education..

Forget the fact that Mayor Bill Finch and the Bridgeport Democratic Party supported Malloy’s illegal takeover of the Bridgeport School System.

Forget the fact that Mayor Bill Finch’s campaign treasurer, Kenneth Moales, Jr. the bully turned Chairman of the Bridgeport Board of Education is systematically turning the Bridgeport Board of Education into the laughing stock of Connecticut.

Forget the fact that Mayor Bill Finch is Paul Vallas’ biggest supporter and that the City of Bridgeport has inappropriately and potentially illegally spent $50,000 to $100,000 representing Paul Vallas in his losing legal effort to remain Bridgeport’s superintendent of schools.

Forget the fact that Mayor Bill Finch and his education reform allies spent a record amount of money in their failed attempt to pass a charter change that would have eliminated Bridgeport’s elected board of education and replaced it with one appointed by him.

The situation facing Bridgeport’s voters in next Tuesday’s primary is the following;

According to their campaign pieces, “The endorsed team for the Bridgeport Board of Education will bring new leadership and a fresh voice for strengthening schools for our kids.”

New leadership and fresh voices?

Endorsed Candidate #1:  Reverend Simon Castillo is a long-time Finch ally who served as Chairman of the Residents for a Better Bridgeport Political Action Committee.  This was the political action committee that spent a record amount of money supporting Mayor Finch’s failed charter reform proposal TO DO AWAY with an elected Board of Education.

Simon Castillo spent countless hours trying to take away Bridgeport voter’s right to choose members of the Bridgeport Board of Education.  Now he wants their vote to be on that Board of Education.

Endorsed Candidate #2:  Brandon Clark is a teacher at Achievement First – Bridgeport and appeared in a number of the campaign brochures and videos that were paid for by the Residents for a Better Bridgeport Political Action Committee.

In essence, Brandon Clark served as a primary spokesperson in the campaign urging Bridgeport voters to support Mayor Finch’s failed charter reform proposal TO DO AWAY with an elected Board of Education.

Brandon Clark spent countless hours trying to take away Bridgeport voter’s right to choose members of the Bridgeport Board of Education.  Now he wants their vote to be on that Board of Education.

Furthermore, Clark’s present campaign pieces report that he has “worked in Bridgeport public schools for more than a decade.”  Of course, Achievement First – Bridgeport is a state charter school and is not part of the Bridgeport school system.  Clark either doesn’t know what schools make up the Bridgeport school system or he is purposely trying to mislead voters into thinking that he works in Bridgeport’s public schools.

Endorsed Candidate #3:  Katie Roach Bukovsky is the third member of the Democratic Party’s endorsed slate.  New to education issues” she reports that part of her expertise comes from the fact that she works for a private company that sells education resource materials and products to school systems.  Katie Roach Bukovsky is also the sister of Danny Roach, the long-time Black Rock District leader on the Bridgeport Democratic Town Committee.  As part of the Bridgeport Democratic establishment, Roach and the majority on the Democratic Town Committee spent countless hours trying TO TAKE AWAY Bridgeport voter’s right to choose members of the Bridgeport Board of Education.  Now Katie Roach Bukovsky she is part of the slate that is seeking voter’s support to be on that Board of Education.

Imagine, in Bridgeport, the endorsed Democratic candidates for the Board of Education are on record opposing democracy.

The Democrats who have spent so much time trying to eliminate the People’s right to elect members of the local board of education are now trying to get on that Bridgeport Board of Education AND are claiming that, as members of that Board they will “bring new leadership and a fresh voice for strengthening schools for our kids.”

As we are fond of saying on this blog, their approach to reality, the truth and democratic principles would make George Orwell proud.

News Flash: Corporate Education Reformers Spend $563,000 and counting in Bridgeport loss

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The final reports from Bridgeport’s November 2012 education reform referendum are in and it turns out that the corporate education reform industry and its supporters spent at least $562,955.16 in their effort to pass Bridgeport Mayor Bill Finch’s anti-democracy initiative, a proposal that would have eliminated the City’s democratically elected board of education and replaced it with one appointed by the mayor.

In the end, Residents for a Better Bridgeport, the political action committee formed by Mayor Finch and his supporters, spent a total of $275,671.80 in the November 2012 referendum campaign that ended with Mayor Finch’s plan going down to defeat by a nearly 2 to 1 margin.

Excel Bridgeport, the corporate funded education reform group that has been lobbying for Bridgeport’s public school privatization efforts reported spending $101,803.36.

And when the dust settled, Michelle Rhee’s StudentsFirst (which goes by the name of Great New England Public School Alliance) spent a total of $185,480.

Organization Reported Total Spending
Residents for a Better Bridgeport $275,671.80
Excel Bridgeport $101,803.36
StudentsFirst/GNEPSA $185,480
TOTAL $562,955.16

 

Taken together, the level of spending by the education reformers broke all Connecticut records for a referendum vote.

Residents for a Better Bridgeport:

In their final campaign finance report, Residents for a Better Bridgeport reported raising another $94,444 in the final week of the campaign, bringing the total amount the group raised (and spent) to over $275,000.

Late corporate campaign donations came in from the Bridgeport Regional Business Council, The Charter Oak Challenge Foundation; Bridgeport based Enviro Express Inc., Mellon Bank, Danbury’s Morganti Group Inc., Bridgeport’s Trefz Corporation and Webster Bank, as well as a number of smaller corporate donations.

Webster Bank’s contribution was for $10,000, Mellon Bank put in $5,000 and the Trefz Corporation added $7,000 to the campaign effort.

The Charter Oak Challenge Foundation, which was created by Andy Boas, the Chairman of Achievement First – Bridgeport’s Board of Directors, gave the anti-democracy political action committee $14,000.

According to the Charter Oak Challenge Foundation’s website, the charity “was founded to help children and families who have the ability to succeed but need financial support to realize their potential. Its founder, Andy Boas, wanted to improve the languishing conditions in Bridgeport by funding a meaningful program for children’s education.”

The final report also revealed that Jonathan Sackler gave the PAC a check for $50,000 just after the last pre-election report was due.

Sackler was the early funder behind Stefan Pryor’s creation of Achievement First, Inc., the larger charter school management company that owns 20 schools in New York and Connecticut and is working to get approval to expand their present schools as well as build new schools in Connecticut. Stefan Pryor is now Governor Malloy’s Commissioner of Education.

Sackler was also the funding force behind the corporate education reform advocacy groups ConnCAN, ConnAD, and the national education reform advocacy group 50-CAN.

Most recently, it came to light that Sackler hosted a major fundraiser for Prosperity for Connecticut, the political action committee affiliated with Governor Malloy.  Collecting over $42,000, Sackler’s May 2012 fundraiser was the most successful event Malloy’s political action committee has had to date.

What is particularly noteworthy about Sackler $50,000 donation is that since Residents for a Better Bridgeport was registered as a “Referendum PAC,” the maximum allowable donation under Connecticut law was $14,442.90.

How Residents for a Better Bridgeport PAC believes it could legally accept Sackler’s $50,000 donation is not clear.

Finally, the Residents for a Better Bridgeport final report included a $1,000 contribution from Connecticut Future PAC, Inc.  Connecticut Future PAC, Inc. was the independent “super-PAC” created to support Chris Murphy’s campaign for the United States Senate.  The PAC, which spent over $485,000 to support Murphy’s campaign, donated $1,000, after Election Day, to the Finch referendum effort.

According to the final report, Residents for a Better Bridgeport PAC spent about $55,000 more on direct mail, $57,000 for phone banking services and $25,000 more for polling.  Much of the remaining funding went to at least 132 campaign workers, who in the case of the Residents for a Better Bridgeport were labeled “consultants.”

Excel Bridgeport, Inc:

In its final report of the campaign, Excel Bridgeport reported that they spent a total of $101,803.36, of which $66,900 went for direct mail.

Excel Bridgeport’s direct mail vendor was a company called Campaignswon.   According to the company’s website, one of the firm’s partners is Bridgeport’s Jorge Cabrera.

Cabrera is also Excel Bridgeport’s “Community Organizer” and while the Excel Bridgeport campaign finance reports show various reimbursements to Cabrera for supplies, they do not report any in-kind contribution of time.  Failure to report direct or in-kind expenditures is a violation of Connecticut campaign finance law.

Much of Excel Bridgeport’s remaining expenditures went to cover the costs of more than two dozen field staff who were paid for services described as “direct outreach and/or holding signs.”

StudentsFirst/Greater New England Public School Alliance (GNEPSA):

In an earlier report, StudentsFirst/Great New England Public School Alliance reported paying $97,000 to a company called FieldWins for door-to-door canvassers.  FieldWins is a New York company that formed a parallel entity in Connecticut.  The final set of reports from Michelle Rhee’s organization indicated that later in the campaign she paid $35,000 to a company named SKD Knickerbocker for television ads and another $53,480 to FieldWins for additional canvassing services.

And $700 for Vallas’ Haitian Activities:

And one of the strangest twists, after spending nearly $563,000 in their failed attempt to persuade Bridgeport voters to undermine their own democratic rights, Residents for a Better Bridgeport ended the campaign with surplus funds of $702.79.  The political action committee donated the $700 to Los Angeles based J/P Haitian Relief Organization.

In February 2011, Bridgeport Superintendent of School, Paul Vallas, joined the J/P Haitian Relief Organization’s Board of Directors.

According to the charity’s IRS filings, “J/P HRO RUNS AN ACCREDITED IN-CAMP SCHOOL, ECOLE DE ‘L’ESPOIR’ (‘SCHOOL OF HOPE’), WHICH NOW SERVES AROUND 550 CHILDREN. J/P HRO ALSO IS IMPLEMENTING A PROGRAM FOR YOUTH WHO HAVE NOT FINISHED THEIR PRIMARY EDUCATION TO GIVE THEM THE FOUNDATION THEY NEED TO CONTINUE THEIR EDUCATION BEYOND THE PRIMARY LEVEL.”

It has remained unclear what compensation or benefits, if any, Vallas receives from his work in Haiti but the Foundation’s annual report indicates that last year they provided over $60,000 in “in-kind” services for that education program.

Campaign Finance Violations:

As Wait, What? readers know, following complaints I filed with the Connecticut’s State Elections Enforcement Commission, the Commission voted to authorize individual investigations into alleged campaign finance violations by Residents for a Better Bridgeport, Excel Bridgeport and Michelle Rhee and her Great New England Public Schools Alliance.  These most recent reports reveal a number of other apparent violations of Connecticut law.

Future posts will outline these myriad of campaign finance issues.

Readers will also recall that these latest donations come on top of tens of thousands of dollars in previous donations from companies and individuals that do business with the Finch Administration or rely on Mayor Finch and the Bridgeport Democrats for support.

Earlier contributions to Finch’s referendum efforts included;

Aquarion Water Company which donated $14,000

Bridgeport Hospital which donated $14,422.90

Bridgeport and Port Jefferson Company $14,000

CT Coalition for Advancement Now (ConnAD) $14,000

Harbor Yard Sports & Entertainment which donated $14,442.90

Jarvis Group LLC, NY (in-kind video) $14,376.40

Pullman and Comeley law firm $7,000

St. Vincent Medical Center which donated $14,400

United Illuminating which donated $10,000

In addition, there were some large individual contributions including one for $25,000 from Bradford Evans, a Senior Advisor at Morgan Stanley and a $25,000 contribution from New York Mayor Michael Bloomberg.

 

Stay tuned for more about the legal troubles facing Bridgeport’s education reformers.

You know those “just run government like a business” guys…

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One of the larger individual donors to Residents for a Better Bridgeport, the Political Action Committee behind Mayor Bill Finch’s anti-democracy initiative that went down to defeat in Bridgeport yesterday, is a hedge fund manager named Zachary Zeitlin, a Westport resident who is or was a partner with Silver Point Capital in Greenwich.

In the “small world department,” Zachary Zeitlin is also one of Governor Malloy’s appointees to the Connecticut Board of Regents.  Those are the individuals that didn’t realize that only they had the authority to set compensation for the employees at the combined State University and Community College System executive e office and stood by, silently, as Robert Kennedy, the former President of the Board, handed out $300,000 in illegal bonuses.

Zeitlin is a donor to ConnCAN and is a member of the Board of Directors for Domus, a Stamford-based charter school company.

Silver Point Capital manages $800 million dollars’ worth of assets in securities of distressed, large-cap, and Mid-cap companies; bank debts; bonds; and trade claims. They play a particularly major role in the following companies; Delphi, AIG, Sunoco and Torch Energy.

Silver Point Capital has donated about $400,000 to political candidates in recent years.

Update: Mayor Finch & “Education Reformers” spend record amount in bid to take away Bridgeport voters’ rights!

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Bad enough that Bridgeport political and business leaders are trying to reduce the democratic rights of Bridgeport voters, but the next most shocking factor is they are using the people’s money to do it.

In addition to all the time Mayor Finch has dedicated to the effort, a major portion of the money that is paying for all the mailings and television ads have been donated by United Illuminating, Bridgeport Hospital, St. Vincent Medical Center, Aquarion Water Company and Harbor Yard, all entities funded, at least in part, by Bridgeport residents and Connecticut taxpayers.

Add $20,000 from New York Mayor Michael Bloomberg, and Residents For A Better Bridgeport, the political action committee behind the campaign to support Mayor Bill Finch’s power grab to eliminate a democratically elected school board and replace it with one appointed by him, will break all the records when it comes to spending money on behalf of a charter change.

Bridgeport Hospital donated $14,422.90

St. Vincent Medical Center donated $14,400

United Illuminating donated $10,000

Aquarion Water Company donated $14,000

Harbor Yard Sports & Entertainment donated $14,442.90

Think about it…

Bridgeport’s two hospitals that are dedicated to providing emergency and critical care to the people Bridgeport and Fairfield County.

Last year, Bridgeport Hospital provided $13.6 million in care to people who had no health insurance.  Add in the bad debts from people who couldn’t pay their full bill, and Bridgeport’s total level of uncompensated care exceeded $41.9 million

Meanwhile, St. Vincent Medical Center provided $9 million in care to those with no health insurance.  Add in their bad patient debts and St. Vincent’s total uncompensated care was $41.8 million.

However, apparently they both have the financial resources to make maximum donations to an effort to undermine democracy in the city that they call home.

And yet, every year, these two hospitals beg the Governor and General Assembly for financial support to stay in business.

So how do these hospitals stay in business?

The State of Connecticut provides these hospitals with major subsidies, using taxpayer funds.

Meanwhile, storm or no storm, UI can find an extra $10,000, the regional water company $14,000 and the publicly funded Harbor Yard can find just over $14,400.  All receive direct funding from taxpayers, rate payers, tax breaks or money from the hard working families of the region.

But without your knowledge or support, some of these funds are being diverted from providing services to paying for Mayor Finch’s immoral political power grab.

Of course, when it comes to using scarce resources, corporate executives, like those at the two hospitals Bridgeport hospitals find other favorite ways to spend your money:

Bridgeport Hospital:  Total salary and compensation for top corporate executives

President/CEO William Jennings:             $764,770
Senior Vice President of Finance/CFO    $688,999
Senior VP of Human Resources                  $468,241
Senior VP/COO                                                  $458,001
Vice President                                                   $452,611
 

St. Vincent Medical Center:  Total salary and compensation for top corporate executives

President/CEO Susan David                        $1,484,755
Senior VP of Finance/CFO                           $567,478
Senior VP $                                                        $456,215
Vice President                                                  $455,920

So next time you pay your taxes, or write out your health insurance premium payment, or pay your water bill or simply try to come up with the money to take your kids to an entertainment event, remember just where some of that money is going.

And it’s not like there is no one who could step in and stop this madness.

All of these organizations have Boards of Trustees or executive leadership teams who could be speaking out for the people of the region…but they aren’t.

Bridgeport Hospital Board of Trustees:

David Bindelglass
Emily E. Blair
Gayle L. Capozzalo
George P. Carter
John Falconi
Robert S. Folman
Richard M. Freedman
Janet M. Hansen
Richard M. Hoyt
William G. Hulcher
Peter F. Hurst
William M. Jennings
Newman Marsilius, III
Patricia L. McDermott
Ronald B. Noren
Jeffrey P. Pino
Meredith B. Reuben
Howard L. Taubin
 

St. Vincent Medical Center Board of Trustees

Sr. Martha Beaudoin
Peter Boone
Susan L. Davis
George Goldfarb
Daniel Gottschall
Edward T. Grossman
Sr. Maura Hobart
Anthony Milano
Manuel Pun
Ruben Rodriguez
Charles Strauss
Anthony Vallillo
Brian Worrell
 

United Illuminating Board of Directors

Thelma R. Albright
Arnold L. Chase
Betsy Henley-Cohn
Suedeen G. Kelly
John L. Lahey
Daniel J. Miglio
William F. Murdy
Donald R. Shassian
James P. Torgerson
 

Aquarion Water Company Executives

Charles V. Firlotte , President and Chief Executive Officer
Donald J. Morrissey, Chief Financial Officer and Corporate Secretary
Howard J. Dunn, Vice President, Operations – Aquarion Company
Bruce T. Silverstone, Vice President, Corporate Communications
Doug Kniffin, Vice President and Chief Information Officer
 

Here are just a few of the companies and organizations that are funding the anti-democracy campaign.  More names to come…

Company/Organization Amount
Aquarium Water Company: $14,000
AT&T Connecticut Employee PAC $2,000
Benchmark Trademark Ltd $5,000
Bradford Evans (Senior Advisor Morgan Stanley) $25,000
Bismark Construction Company $3,500
Bridgeport and Port Jefferson Company $14,000
Bridgeport Hospital $14,442.90
Charles Valentino, State Marshall $1,000
CT Coalition for Advancement Now (ConnAD) $14,000
Hal Rosnick (Attorney) $500
Harbor Yard Sports and Entertainment LLC $14,442.90
Jarvis Group LLC, NY (in-kind video) $14,376.40
Juda Epstein (Attorney) $1,000.00
Mark Tillenger $2,500
Merit Insurance $2,500
Michael Bloomberg, Mayor of  New York City $25,000
Michael Halperin, Washington, CT $2,500
Poko Core Builders, Farmington, CT $2,500
Pullman & Comley (law firm with significant state business) $7,000
St. Vincent’s Hospital $14,400
Steven Simmons, Greenwich, CT $1,000
United Illuminating 10,000
WC & F Real Estate and Development $1,000
Zachary Zeitlin (Silver Point Capital, Westport) $2,000
2 Dog Media (in-kind web design) $1,200
*The Latest from the CT Post can be found here:http://www.ctpost.com/default/article/Ed-board-charter-change-divides-voters-4007166.php