Even the most successful of power-mad schemers need reliable co-conspirators to accomplish their nefarious ends. The most power-mad of the power-mad, the American Legislative Exchange Council, relies on easily compromised spear-carriers to dominate state legislatures and push through model-legislation designed to benefit ALEC’s multi-national, special interest corporate donor base.
It was by pure happenstance I chanced upon such a co-conspirator the other day. It actually turned out to be three co-conspirators. I was digging through the South Carolina Ethics Commission’s statements of economic interests required of state and legislative office holders and their challengers. These interests include name, address, filing date, business and property interest, creditors, government contracts, lobbyist contacts and, most importantly, who is buying legislator’s votes through the section marked “gifts.”
I concentrated on my local delegation of seated representatives. On my first search, an initialism (thus termed when an acronym is unpronounceable) popped up that I’d never seen or heard of before. It appeared as SLLF. Whatever it was had gifted one of my local state delegations with a total of nearly $3,100 for the gift of a single trip. Not bad. There are some economy overseas jaunts you can take for three grand. The stipend covered ‘tuition,’ lodging and meals. As I looked at the economic interests of my other local representatives, SLLF appeared over and over. Four of my six house members accepted SLLF’s largess. This definitely called for further study.
It took but seconds to find the expanded version of SLLF. It stood for State Legislative Leaders Foundation. Here’s their charge “The State Legislative Leaders Foundation was established in 1972 as a nonprofit corporation dedicated to working with state legislative leaders in their efforts to reform the institution of the state legislature.” Reform is an interesting choice of words considering their Board Chairman is Eric Turner, Indiana House Speaker Pro Tem, who most recently attracted the attention of the legislative Ethics Commission for secretly attempting to kill a bill that would hurt his family business. Might we continue?
The Board of Directors of SLLF is split equally between Republicans and Democrats. The South Carolina member is Bobby Harrell, Republican Speaker of the House and ALEC member, who has so many ethics problems that he might as well rent office space from the state Attorney General. Another legislator lives in the stone age of insisting that the president was not born in the U.S. Yet another guy wants to teach bible studies in public schools. A board member, and Michigan Senate President Pro Tem, is a public chairperson for ALEC. All board members hold some kind of leadership position in their respective General Assemblies.
There were five meetings listed on the SLLF 2014 itinerary: The National Speakers Conference, the Ethics Leadership Summit, the Emerging Leaders Program and something called the “2nd Annual Meeting” held at the super fancy schmancy Greenbrier, replete with horse-drawn carriages. Greenbrier is a favorite snooty getaway for DC’s congressional glitterati. The fifth meeting of 2014 was jointly held in Zagreb and Dubrovnik, Croatia. That’s got to cost a few Kunas. Dubrovnik is essentially a resort city. I’d loved to know where SLLF folks stayed. It’s expensive! The Villa Orsula by the Adriatic perchance? I’d vote for anything for a few days of Orsula by the sea luxury.
The SLLF Advisory Council is made up of corporate members and Trade Associations. Over half are past or present ALEC members. I think it’s more than fair to ask what so many Democrats, including a sprinkling of real progressives, are doing in this den of political iniquity.
While NSA’ing my way through various SLLF sites, I ran into the name, Rob Scheberle. Turns out the current head of ALEC was once an Assistant VP for SLLF. That led me to another pursuit of Scheberle’s. He’s on the Digital Learning Council Leadership team as a member or adviser, along with several radical right-wing outfits like ALEC climate change denier and vehemently anti-public school, the “Heartland Institute.” One of the founders of DLC was ALEC member and former Florida governor, Jeb Bush, very possibly our next president. The co-founder was another ex-governor, West Virginia’s Bob Wise. The date of DLC’s birth was 2010.
The primary emphasis of DLC is online and virtual learning, a back door wrecking ball of public schools. In addition to Heartland, The Charter growth fund is on board as well as the extremist organization, the American Enterprise Institute.
K12 is skulking around the halls of DLC as well. K12 is a private, for profit virtual school corporation (NYSE: LRN) that has a highly misleading website in South Carolina making it appear as a public, state agency. Various sources have written that their “virtual schools” are a disaster with deep-seated attendance and graduation problems and scores in reading and math falling well short of public school averages.
An interesting minority “adviser” is Gerard Robinson. He was lured from his post as Virginia’s head of the Department of Education by Florida Governor, Rick Scott, to take the same position in the Sunshine state. What followed was a chaotic year of turmoil as Robinson turned the state’s education system on its head with a series of “reforms.” He abruptly resigned. His cred for the Florida post included his position as president of the pro-choice Black Alliance for Educational Options.
Let’s complete the circle with a closing visit to the granddad of public school dismantling, the Jeb Bush “Foundation for Excellence in Education (FEE)” The title should have added “as long as that education squeezes a corporate profit out of every kid.” Or, as his Website readily attest in a listing of goals; School Choice: The foundation for excellence in education
“Families need the financial freedom to attend schools that meet their needs. The Foundation supports policies that empower families to choose a public, charter, private, virtual or home school.”
FEE commands giant donations; some in excess of a million dollars. Bill and Melinda Gates anted up a mil or so. News Corp was right up there. The DeVos Foundation (Amway) was highly generous as well. Mr. and Mrs. are huge school choice advocates. Betsy DeVos has headed the Michigan State Republican Party four different times. Charter Schools USA threw a couple of bucks Jeb’s way and the other donors knew what they were buying: a giant can of public school “Whoop A**.”
That’s the agenda. And it’s being carried out by a deceitful amalgam of corporations, foundations, politicians and extremists. Now you know of at least one of the ‘kill off public schools’ conga lines; headed by ALEC, abetted by Jeb Bush and held together with high-sounding right-wing foundations and organizations.