You will recall that yesterday I went into great detail on the character assassination of Valene Harris, candidate for Christina School Board.
Today, Voices 4 Delaware Education PAC's mailer in support of Ms. Harris started hitting mailboxes:
To be clear: I think the flier is going to end up costing Ms. Harris votes (although you never know), but I also think that the publication of such a flier was inevitable. More on that in a moment.
John Young (both of Transparent Christina and a sitting member of the Christina School Board) offers several responses. This one interests me as a starting point:
Do you think this endears you to the BOE that, if you win, you will have to work with 6 of its members?
Interesting question, but possibly not in the manner John intends, because in many upstate districts we've already seen sitting school board members actively campaigning against people who eventually won seats on their own board.
In last year's Red Clay elections, no fewer than three of the sitting board members teamed up in support of another incumbent to campaign against the challenger--who won the seat.
Likewise, in one upstate election this year a glance at one candidate's financial report will show a sitting board president having donated to the cause. Do we ask that question of the board president? How do you sit down and work with the other candidate, if your chosen one loses?
The answer is that you just sit down and do it. That's politics.
Oh, by the way, don't try the link above. As I have been writing this, John has pulled the post. The new one concentrates not on Valene Harris but on Voices 4 Delaware Education:
I have a few:
Who is Voices 4 Delaware Education Action Fund?
What is their tax status? 501(c)4?
Who runs the organization?
Who funds the organization?
Since there are no action words in my mailer today like vote, elect, re-elect etc this must be an issue piece no?
If it is about issues such as the abject failures of the CSD BOE, who is funding the dissemination of this message?
Why are they inside a shell company?
Why won’t they expose their identity and own their views?
Absent that transparency, will Valene Harris disavow their support?
The problem I have with all this virtuous angst is that "super secret money" has been in play for years and years and years with regard to Delaware elections.
So the same questions, unfortunately, could be asked of multiple school board and General Assembly candidates in years like, say, 2007-2011, when the DSEA Advocacy Fund for Children and Education dumped over a million dollars into school board and political campaigns across the State, while also legally laundering funds into various incarnations of the Working Families of Delaware PAC.
Here are some highlights, which anyone can verify via the Delaware Department of Elections PAC page by entering the keyword "DSEA" and the year range 2007-2011:
Funds raised by DSEA AFCE (these numbers are probably low; report totals don't add up):
2007: $148,522.63 (Including $32,500 directly from DSEA to its own PAC)
2008: $383,000 (Including over $300K from DSEA to its own PAC)
2009: $138,932.02 (By this point Dept of Elections figures show over $561,000 aggregate contributions from DSEA to this PAC over the previous several years)
2010: $167,304.90 (Mostly direct from DSEA)
2011: $207,839.00 (Including another $70K plus from DSEA to its own PAC)
That's how much raised in five years to be spent influencing Delaware elections?
Ah, uh . . . over a million dollars. . .
And how much was spent?
Highlight: over $20K shipped back to DSEA to pay DSEA staff (to work on political campaigns?)2008: $712,000 plus
Highlights: Nearly $30,000 in polling (how much of that was push polling?)2009: $38,757.51
Highlights: Over $16K laundered into yet another PAC (Working Families of Delaware); political contributions to BOTH the DE GOP and Dem parties, as well as over two dozen candidates including school board candidates in Christina, Red Clay, Colonial, and Cape Henlopen, all of whom benefited from the max direct contributions and the ubiquitous DSEA/Working Families glossy fliers)2010: $202,677.70 plus
Highlight: dozens of additional candidates supported and over $16,000 sent to Belden, Russonello & Stewart of Washington DC for "polling" (They proudly list DSEA as one of their favorite customers) and another $20,000 to Public Policy Polling for same.2011: $32,798.14
Highlights: Over $16,000 for glossy mailers for dozens more candidates.
Please note: these numbers are low. You have to go dig back through at least four different interlocking DSEA-controlled PACs and a whole cartload of "independent expenditures" reports that are often not rolled up in the other totals.
And the DSEA PACs have been equal opportunity donators--Republicans and Democrats alike, anybody who can later be counted on.
Now it could be argued (a) that at least I can know who contributed this money, and (b) who is supporting all these candidates.
The fact of the matter is that Voices 4 Delaware Education will have to file all the same paperwork; you only get know about any of this after the fact.
It is also often argued that one "side" in the Delaware Education Civil War is "wall street" and the other "side" is teachers, and that it is preferrable to have "teachers" shaping our elections with hundreds of thousands of dollars annually than to have corporate leaders doing so.
Two fallacies there.
1--The teachers, after they pay their mandated dues, have absolutely no say in how the money is spent once that money is turned over to the PAC. In fact, it would be illegal for them to have any say in it at that point. A small group of essentially faceless people makes those decisions and is accountable to virtually no one once the checks are signed.
2--Many of the people raising the outcry about "super secret money"--politicans, school board members, and bloggers--had no qualms in previous years about taking their own "super secret money" and benefiting from fliers and mailers and emails and polls over which they maintained the carefully required fictitious position that they had not "coordinated" any of this between the PACs and their campaigns. This is the position that those folks are now criticizing when other people do it.
The system, folks, has been contaminated downward from presidential races all the way to school boards, and it is filthy corrupt now.
But here are two dirty little secrets people don't like to discuss:
1--It was DSEA that monetized school board elections in Delaware, and $1,000,000 of political contributions and PAC spending five years later it is more than a bit disingenuous to pretend that somehow the other "side" is now violating a pristine system.
2--The corporate spending in these elections mirrors everything shabby and wrong with our general election system; fliers like the one condemning the Christina School Board are the logical extension of a process that has long been in motion, and . . .
. . . which nobody on either "side" seems to want to rise above, while those of our children not lucky enough to have effective parental advocacy are the only losers.
Disclaimer: I am supporting and working for Joanne Johansen's campaign for the Red Clay School Board this year. Today we got a mailer in favor of Joanne from the same Voices 4 Delaware Education Fund, which--thankfully--was all positive and did not attack her opponent, who is a gifted teacher and a good man. Joanne is NOT the candidate endorsed by RCEA/DSEA; draw what conclusions you will.