When most Americans think of political contributions, they think of the giant super PAC donations to Presidential candidates and Congress people. Millions to a guy named Josh to take out Ohio Senator, Sherrod Brown. Or additional millions to Republican Senate incumbent, Scott Brown (no relation, God knows) to head off the Democratic challenge of Elizabeth Warren.
Yes, thanks to the Citizen’s United decision from the ‘bought and paid for’ five-ninny Supreme Court majority, a new day for campaign financing has arrived; bloated, secretive and as far from democratic as it’s possible for a democracy to stray. But few people pay much attention to another money component perhaps just as critical to the well-being of these United States…State Senate and Representative races. A South Carolina State Senator named Lee Bright had been working to hang on to his seat in the face of a primary fight from a fellow Republican. He beat Attorney, John Hawkins, handily with the generous support of a filthy rich, aging New Yorker.
It’s humanly impossible to be more right-wing than Bright. The South Carolina Club for Growth (It’s humanly impossible to be more right-wing than the SCCFG) gives Bright a legislative rating of 100%. Bright is also part of a six-man legislative Tea Party (it’s humanly impossible to be more right-wing than the Tea Party) contingent who call themselves the “William Wallace Group.” Scotsman, Wallace, featured in “Braveheart”, died prematurely at the end of a rope and was drawn and quartered for good measure after leading a movement for independence from England. The South Carolina nutsoids are apparently dedicated to follow in Wallace’ footsteps (wherever those feet may be) in declaring their independence from Washington. Their battle strategy is thumbing their noses at the fed, cutting every service that doesn’t represent the interests of the rich and privatizing education.
I know this is a long way to go to get to my point. And my point is two-fold…money to state races and privatizing education. There are two primary reasons to privatize education; profit and propaganda. It’s a quick buck to underpay teachers and get suckers to pay for something that’s offered free across the land. It’s also a wonderful chance to bend history to conform to right-wing corporate theology. I can hear the school prayer now. “Dear Lord, please protect the Republican Party, Millionaires and Billionaires. And please do not allow the Democratic Party to give those lazy “food-stamp people” any of mommy and daddy’s tax dollars that should go to private schools. AHHHmen!”
The name most identified with the state privatization, school-choice and voucher movements is 72-year-old, Howard Rich, another one of those old guys in the mold of septuagenarians (and billionaires many times over), David (72) and Charles (76) Koch, Casino billionaire, Sheldon Adelson (79) and billionaire, Richard Mellon Scaife, who now has to summon the breath to blow out 80 candles on his birthday cake. And from the media, meet Rupert Murdoch who has to huff and puff for one more candle than Scaife. There are dozens more where these ancient Republican-loving, democracy-wrecking Scrooges come from and they’re destroying the country with their off-shore accounts full of money.
Rich is not new to the scene. Daily Kos had him figured out a half-dozen years ago. But he’s still the model for fabulously wealthy geezers who are in charge of shaping your federal, state and by extension, local governments. South Carolina is just one state that yields to Howard’s contributions. Vote for vouchers; get money. He also attempts to buy statewide offices. In 2006, he pumped $52,500 into the losing campaign of Karen Floyd for Superintendent of Education.
By population, South Carolina ranks somewhere in the middle. The latest numbers put it at the 24th most populous state in the union. With 4.6 million citizens, it’s not especially big or small; California is almost 38 million, Wyoming a bit over a half-million. So the question remains, why would this New York real estate mogul lay a bunch of money on an Upstate South Carolina extremist, whose actions don’t match his name (he just lost his Trucking company to foreclosure and had some questionable legal issues prior to that)? Because Lee Bright’s vote can be bought for a series of $1,000 donations.
And leave it to the Republicans to leave ethics at the door. You see, the most you can give a candidate for state Senate or Representative is $1,000; for statewide office it’s $3,500. Rich beats these limitations by contributing through his front companies and with a clutch of like-minded buddies willing to lend their names to a $1,000 contribution. Rich also gives the national Club for Growth a tidy sum to be distributed under the state Club for Growth name in $1,000 donations. Clever, huh? Hell no! Any unethical short-cutter can cheat. It doesn’t take a single brain cell to work the system. All it takes is a lack of ethics and morals. And the Republicans wrote the book.
A quick gander at the South Carolina Ethics Commission contribution records show Rich contributed to Bright (and others) under such names as Ashborough Investors, LLC, 1420 Walnut St., Suite 1011, Philadelphia, PA. 19102. That’s where virtually all the money came from, 1420 Walnut St. There were 9 contributions from that address, 2 from individuals identified as front men for Rich and the SC Club for Growth.
For Bright, those fronts represented a $12,000 reward for voting Rich’s way. One of Bright’s Upstate colleagues, Joey Millwood, took in 24 grand of the old man’s money, but lost in the primary anyway. Another local rep, Bill Chumbley, who does next to nothing but play lap dog for the big boys, found $13,000 in Rich money under his campaign tree. Latest reports have Rich’s money close to buying the exact bill he wanted passed after greasing more that half of South Carolina House member’s palms.
Should Rich and other billionaire moneymen prevail in privatizing schools, look for dramatic and fanciful changes in curriculums. Scholarly-looking textbooks that are pure bullshit will debunk evolution and man-made climate change. Intelligent design and Creationism will be taught, not only in Christian schools, but in private schools as well. The Palin/Bachman take on history will render our past unrecognizable and every day; students will be inundated with subtle and not so subtle anti-progressive messages creating a permanent “hate Democrats” class. There will undoubtedly be bible classes and all manner of Christian indoctrination in private schools that will soon come to resemble Sunday schools.
There is little to no oversight at private schools. A private school can cherry-pick and it does not have to answer to the same testing and qualitative imperatives as public schools. Private schools can massage the numbers to the extent where they all look like extraordinary academic destinations for your little darlings. Don’t give ’em a penny!
That’s an example of just one issue feeding multiple millions to state legislators. There are dozens more. I can’t repeat this enough, GOTV! Get out the vote!