NYC based Charter School Lobby attacks CT State Senator Len Fasano for his support of public education

Families for Excellent Schools is the corporate funded, New York based, charter school industry lobbying group that bused in students and parents from as far away as New York City and Boston, last year, to attend a rally in support of Governor Dannel Malloy’s effort to divert even more taxpayer money to Connecticut’s privately owned and operated charter schools.

Over the past year and a half, Families for Excellent Schools  – using a variety of aliases – has spent nearly $1.5 million in a record-breaking effort to lobby and persuade Connecticut legislators to support Governor Dannel Malloy’s unfair, inappropriate and discriminatory “education reform” initiatives.

Now, in a dirty and underhanded maneuver, the outside lobby group is targeting Republican State Senator Len Fasano.  His crime?  Unlike Malloy, Fasano actually supports Connecticut’s real public schools and Connecticut’s public school teachers.

The truth is that Governor Malloy’s 2016 budget proposal includes plans to cut Connecticut’s public schools by approximately $58 million while increasing state aid to his pet-project, the privately owned and operated charter schools.

Thanks to Malloy’s education reform effort, Connecticut taxpayers already subsidize charter school companies to the tune of more than $100 million a year and while Malloy laments the state budget deficit, his budget plan is to actually give charter school even more taxpayer funds even though these companies refuse to educate their fair share of students who need special education services or those who require extra help when it comes to learning the English Language.

State Senator Len Fasano has been calling Malloy out on his irresponsible budget plan.

Fasano has made it clear that public schools should be treated more fairly and that charter schools should not be exempt from the efforts to balance the budget.

Fasano has also been one of the most outspoken leaders in opposition to the Common Core SBAC testing frenzy and is a leading co-sponsor of the legislation prohibiting Common Core SBAC test results from being used as part of Malloy’s ill-conceived and unfair teacher evaluation program.

Paid to promote the Common Core, the Common Core testing and more state aid for charter schools, Fasano’s pro-public education stance is just too much for these charter lobbyists to handle and so they are targeting him.

Of course, beyond the immediate attack on State Senator Fasano is the question of who is really behind these tactics?

According to the official reports filed with the State Ethics Commission, New York’s Families for Excellent Schools has become a major source of income for Malloy’s “former” top aides.

Andrew Doba, who served as Governor Malloy’s Press Secretary before leaving the state payroll to take a PR position with a New York company, has already collected $78,000 from this charter school lobbying front and it appears that he is now collecting $8,500 a month to support Malloy’s education reform proposals and attack Malloy’s opponents.

In addition, since setting up shop in Connecticut, Families for Excellent Schools has handed Roy Occhiogrosso’s company at least $232,350.  Occhiogrosso is Malloy’s alter-ego and worked as the governor’s chief adviser during Malloy’s first term in office.  The political operative is widely credited with writing Malloy’s 2012 anti-teacher speeches in which Malloy proposed doing away with teacher tenure and observed that he didn’t mind having teachers teach to the test as long as test scores went up.

More money for charter schools…

More money for Malloy’s closest advisers….

Next time you see the Families for Excellent Schools ad attacking Len Fasano… 

You’ll know who is behind the effort.


Et tu, Brute? – Democrats line up to betray Connecticut’s Latinos

Despite the herculean efforts of the political spinmeisters surrounding Governor Dannel Malloy and Connecticut’s Democratic Party leaders, the truth about what is taking place in Hartford, Connecticut is becoming increasingly apparent.

While the outcome of Hartford’s Democratic Primary for Mayor won’t be known until the last votes are counted on Wednesday, September 16, 2015, Greenwich Native and Hartford newcomer Luke Bronin appears to be on the verge of defeating the only Puerto Rican mayor of any major city across the 50 States.

If the political take-down occurs, the vast majority of the “credit” goes to the “Divine Invisible” hand of Democratic Governor Dannel Malloy, Malloy’s political operatives and Luke Bronin’s record breaking expensive campaign.

The harsh and disturbing reality is that if successful, Luke Bronin’s defeat of Mayor Pedro Segarra may very well be the most audacious political attack on the Latino community by a sitting Democratic Governor.

Novice Luke Bronin’s quest to become the next Mayor of Hartford, Connecticut is a case study on Dannel Malloy’s effort to deliver the money and political support necessary to install an affluent, white, protégée as mayor of Connecticut’s Capital, a community in which so-called “minority” residents make up well over 70 percent of Hartford’s 125,000 population and where at least 48 percent of Hartford residents speak a language other than English at home.

In Hartford’s public schools, less than 10 percent of the students are White and just over 50 percent are Latino or Hispanic.  Approximately one in five Hartford students is not fluent in English and 85% of all students qualify for free or reduced lunch.

But in an extremely unreported, but extraordinarily dramatic set of circumstances, an individual who has never run for office, never worked in municipal government and never attended a public school is poised to defeat Hartford’s Latino Mayor, Pedro Segarra.

While Mayor Segarra has had his problems, challenges and difficulties, the race isn’t so much about the incumbent as it is about the challenger’s unprecedented campaign, a challenger who belongs among the 1% but claims his golden pedigree has prepared him to save Hartford.

And with that, the spotlight shifts to Connecticut Governor Dannel Malloy.

  • Andrew Doba, who serves as Luke Bronin’s spokesman and cheerleader, spent the last two years as Governor Dannel Malloy’s Communications Director and official mouthpiece. While Bronin’s campaign broke Connecticut Campaign Finance Law this summer by accepting an illegal campaign donation form Doba’s New York based public relations company, following Wait, What? coverage of the issue, it now appears that Bronin is finally paying Malloy’s former aide for his services.  Considering Malloy’s pro-charter school, pro-education reform, anti-teacher agenda, it is not surprising that Doba is also Connecticut point person for the New York City based charter school industry front group known as Families for Excellent Schools. The lobbying group has devoted more than $1 million to help pass Malloy’s “education” initiative that has diverted millions in scarce public funds to privately owned charter schools rather than to inadequately funded public schools in Hartford and the state’s other poor school system.
  • In recent weeks, Roy Occhiogrosso, Malloy’s chief advisor and alter ego has also collected more than $58,000 from Bronin’s campaign for “polling and advertising services.”
  • Bronin’s major donors includes many individuals with direct ties to Malloy, including Malloy’s former chief of staff, his former campaign manager, his former campaign treasurer, and a number of Malloy’s gubernatorial and campaign aides.
  • More than 50 of Malloy political appointees, including many who are collecting six figure incomes after getting appointed to state jobs by Malloy over the past few years are also on Bronin’s contributor list including present and former state commissioners and deputy commissioners, executive assistants and appointees to various boards and commissions including the Parole Board, the Public Utilities Regulatory Authority and the Board of Regents.
  • In addition, an unprecedented number of Bronin’s campaign donations have come from State lobbyists.

As of Bronin’s July campaign finance report, at least 33 state lobbyists, along with a number of their spouses had given to Luke Bronin’s campaign.  The list includes many of the most influential names in the lobbying business.

  • Bronin has been cashing in with Dannell Malloy’s previous gubernatorial donors, especially with those who have large state contracts.

For example, The Konover Company, a real estate management firm that profits from state contracts poured at least $71,000 into Malloy’s 2014 campaign effort via the Democratic Party’s “Federal Account.”  Those same individuals are among Luke Bronin’s largest campaign contributors.

Another prime example of the Malloy/Bronin reach is the fact that Bronin has collected $4,000 from Anthony Gaglio, Anthony Gaglio Jr. and their spouses.

The Gaglios own Viking Construction Inc. a company that donated $63,500 to Malloy via what the Harford Courant called, “a controversial state Democratic Party federal account that supported Malloy’s re-election.”

Reporting on Viking Construction’s donations to Luke Bronin, the Hartford Courant explained,

“Calls to Viking were not returned Thursday or Friday. Viking, a major player in residential construction, was general contractor for an affordable housing development recently built in Darien in cooperation with Malloy and state economic development officials.

Bronin, responding to a question about the Gaglios’ contributions, said in an email Friday, “I was introduced to them by a supporter, and after sharing my vision for a vibrant Hartford, I was pleased to get their support.”

  • Connecticut’s largest law firms, most of which also have lucrative state contracts, have also served as a major source of campaign funds for Bronin’s effort to defeat Pedro Segarra.

Among the large law firms that have provided Bronin with campaign donations are Pullman & Comely; Updike, Kelly & Spellacy; Shipman & Goodwin; Murtha, Cullina; Day, Pitney and Robinson & Cole.

These same firms were instrumental in funding Malloy’s Democratic Party campaign slush fund with about $45,000 coming from Pullman & Comely, $30,000 from Updike, Kelly & Spellacy, $11,000 from Shipman & Goodwin, along with sizable donations from Day Pitney; Robinson & Cole and others.

  • And other key Democratic Party officials also appear involved in the effort to defeat Pedro Segarra.  Attorney General George Jepsen’s two top aides, the AG’s Deputy Attorney General and his Chief Adviser, have donated to Segarra’s opponent.  Luke Bronin’s contributor list also includes top aides to State Treasurer Denise Nappier.
  • Equally telling is the fact Lt. Governor Nancy Wyman, once considered a leading voice for Latino causes and a strong supporter of Pedro Segarra, has been utterly silent as the Malloy and the Democratic Party has targeted Segarra for defeat…as has many of Connecticut’s other key Democratic elected officials.

In the end, Governor Dannel Malloy’s decision to help remove one of the nation’s highest ranking Puerto Rican elected officials is not only noteworthy because Malloy is a Democrat and relied heavily on support from Latino and Hispanic voters to get elected to a first and second term, but also because Malloy will be take the helm of the Democratic Governors Association (DGA) in just a few months.

In that role Malloy’s duty will be to raise money for the various Democratic candidates running for governor in 2016, while helping to get out the vote on behalf of the Democratic Party’s presidential candidate. Malloy has already been to New Hampshire to campaign for Hilary Clinton.

Considering the Democratic Party needs strong support from Hispanic and Latino voters in order to win a the national and state level in 2016, Dannel Malloy’s involvement in helping to take down a major Latino leader is nothing short of stunning.

Perhaps the only thing more stunning has been the complete lack of national media coverage about the developing situation in Connecticut.

Incredible stupidity, stunning arrogance or both…

Earlier today, the Global Strategy Group, a political consulting and public relations company released a memo about a public opinion survey that it had conducted for the “education reform” advocacy group, ConnCAN, the Connecticut Coalition for Achievement Now, Inc.

According to a Global Strategy Group memo, the poll found that, “Voters see the Governor [Malloy] as a strong advocate for education reform.  Voters give the Governor favorable ratings (54% favorable/36% unfavorable) and believe he is doing a good job when it comes to education.  A majority of voters (54%) approve of the job he is doing when it comes to Connecticut’s public schools.  Parents are especially supportive of the Governor’s efforts and rate his performance on schools favorably by a margin of nearly 2 to 1 (60% approve/31% disapprove).

The Global Strategy Group is where Roy Occhiogrosso landed after leaving the Governor’s Office six weeks ago.  After serving for two years as Governor Malloy’s chief advisor and spokesman, Roy Occhiogrosso recently returned to Global Strategies Group to serve as its Managing Director. 

Occhiogrosso had previously served as a partner at Global Strategies from 2003 to 2010.  During the 2010 gubernatorial campaign, Dan Malloy’s gubernatorial campaign, much of it funded through the State’s publicly funded campaign finance system, paid Occhiogrosso and Global Strategies a total of $669,105.87.

According to the memo, the ConnCAN opinion survey was conducted between January 23 and January 27, 2013, just a couple of weeks after Occhiogrosso rejoined Global Strategies. 

Although neither ConnCAN nor Global Strategies released the questionnaire that served as the survey instrument, it is clear from today’s memo that the poll was designed to collect valuable political information, as well as perspectives on policy issues.

When an organization conducts a survey with a larger sample size, only interviews voters and includes questions to determine the respondents’ party affiliation, their goal is generally to collect information about how key political sub-constituencies respond to potential voting issues.

It is particularly suspicious that ConnCAN and Global Strategies decided to conduct the survey at the end of January, prior to the Governor’s Budget speech, but held the results until after the speech was completed. A poll of this nature would be of tremendous political value to the Malloy Administration if they had access to the data prior to putting together his budget speech.

ConnCAN’s political support for Governor Malloy is well known.  Last Spring, within 24 hours of Malloy’s “education reform” bill becoming a Public Act, one of ConnCAN’s founders held an extremely lucrative fundraiser for a political action committee called Prosperity for Connecticut.  The PAC appears to be affiliated with Governor Malloy and the Governor has attended all, or most, of the PAC’s fundraising events, including a series of fundraising parties in Washington D.C. and New York City. 

Jonathan Sackler, who hosted the event for education reform supporters, is not only one of the original founders of ConnCAN, but he also formed ConnAD, the organization that spent record amounts lobbying for Malloy’s “education reform bill.  Furthermore, he is also the founder of 50-CAN, a national education reform advocacy group.  National officials from Michelle Rhee’s StudentsFirst, Teach for America and other national education reform groups donated to the Sackler fundraiser.

The May 30, 2012 fundraiser at Sackler’s $8.5 million home raised over $41,000 for the Prosperity for Connecticut PAC, making it the most successful of the 15 fundraisers the PAC has had since being formed two years ago. 

At the Sackler event, significantly more than half of the money raised came directly from members of ConnCAN’s Board of Directors, ConnCAN’s Advisory Board or family members of the individuals who serve on the two boards.

The decision to conduct this poll raises numerous serious issues. 

Did Occhiogrosso know about the poll before he left state service and did he spend any state time or resources communicating with ConnCAN or Global Strategies about the poll? 

Were any other members of Malloy’s Administration, such as OPM Secretary Barnes, Education Commissioner Pryor or Chief of Staff Ojakian aware of the poll?  Did any of these public officials offer information that impacted the questions being asked?

Equally important is whether the Malloy Administration received any information about the survey’s finding prior to the poll’s public release and most importantly, prior to the Governor’s budget speech.

Depending on what information was provided and who did the communicating, there are potential violations of Connecticut’s ethics laws, let alone the possibility that public employees used state resources to further their political agenda.

The issue is particularly relevant because leading up to the 2010 gubernatorial campaign, I filed a complaint against Governor Rell, her chief of staff and key members of her administration for using state resources to support public opinion polling that was designed to have political benefits for Rell.  The complaint eventually led to major fines for some of the individuals involved in the effort.

While in this case the poll was conducted by a private entity, was not done at state expense and Malloy has yet to form a campaign committee, ConnCAN is a registered lobbyist and that brings a whole series of ethics issues into play.  In addition, it is conceivable that if state employees were involved in the development of the survey, other laws may have been violated.

Anyone aware of Connecticut’s ethics laws and the laws prohibiting the use of state resources for political purposes would instantly recognize that a poll of this nature, especially conducted at this time, would raise a wide variety of questions.

It is for that reason that this post is entitled, “Incredible stupidity, stunning arrogance or both…”

Rest assured that this is not the last time we will hear about this incredible and stunningly stupid move by ConnCAN and Global Strategies.

News coverage of this event has been extremely limited to date.  Here is the first article on the poll.  Advocates Say Survey Shows Support For Education Reforms.

Coincidentally – here is a Wait, What? post from earlier today entitled; Malloy says: I know, let’s finish off the effectiveness of the government watchdog agencies…