Money, politics, education


by David Safier

The movement against gun violence is fortunate to have a deep pockets backer like Michael Bloomberg. The push for sane gun regulation is vital and it has strong backing from voters, but without Bloomberg money, along with funds flowing into Gabby Giffords and Mark Kelly's Americans for Responsible Solutions and similar groups, the advertising campaigns to counter NRA's influence couldn't happen, nor could the events in D.C. and elsewhere involving people whose lives have been directly affected by gun violence. Take away the money, and you get a valiant, passionate movement that can't get its message out.

Fortunately, we have some deep pockets on our side, and small donors help add to the funds needed to publicize and promote political, educational and social agendas. But the money on the other side is almost limitless.

Koch Brothers Plan More Political Involvement for Their Conservative Network, says an article in today's NY Times. At the Brothers' recent confab, they promised to double down on their efforts to buy elections and legislation.

Many of those efforts [to lure Hispanic voters] will emanate from the Libre Initiative, a Hispanic-oriented conservative group for which the Koch network plans to expand financing this year.


[T]wo trusted Koch employees were placed on the board of Americans for Prosperity, the brothers’ flagship grass-roots organization. A new tax-exempt group, the Association for American Innovation, is being set up to manage turf disputes among the many different state-level groups that receive money from the Koch network.

And so on. And the Koch Brothers are only one of a slew of huge-bucks donors pushing a similar political agenda.

Then there's education. Michelle Rhee's "Students First" just got $8 million from the Walton Foundation (the Walmart family) to pursue her conservative "education reform" agenda. ("Michelle, you lie, you cheat, you're our kind of people!") How many progressive education groups get an $8 million money drop like that? Yet Rhee's group is only one of many conservative nonprofits with almost limitless funds to further their agendas.

New Schools Venture Fund, which funnels money to charter schools, has spent $260 million over the past 15 years to help make charter schools look like a grassroots movement that gets better achievement from students (wrong) by spending less money than school district schools (generally wrong again). Now the Rethink Education Fund, which focuses on education startups, plans to give a bundle of money to help the New Schools fund pour more resources into school privatization.

When it comes to funding, it's not a fair fight. More and more, the public seems to be on our side, but the flood of money and the tsunami of messaging that comes from the other side makes it a steep uphill battle.