Get sick, get well
Hang around a ink well
Ring bell, hard to tell
If anything is goin' to sell
-- Bob Dylan

Monday, April 1, 2013

Rhee's millions

Michelle Rhee's anti-union group Students First is bankrolled mainly by a collection of corporate billionaires and power philanthropists. The group is not required by law to disclose its donors or what they give. She refused last week, to give L.A. Times reporters, Michael Mishak and Howard Blume, a list. But she names several in her new memoir, "Radical."

She uses their money to send out lobbyists to dozens of states to push anti-union and anti-teacher legislation with a staff of more than 120 based in her Sacramento offices.
"There is a really talented field of advocates, but it is … underpowered," said Ed Kirby, deputy director of the Walton Family Foundation, which has reported giving StudentsFirst at least $3 million. "The fact that StudentsFirst has joined the fight — that's a big deal." -- L.A. Times
Her wealthy patrons include the Laura and John Arnold Foundation, funded by John Arnold, an Enron oil exec who didn't go to jail, and hedge fund billionaire, who has pushed to rein in public pensions across the country. One of his former colleagues dubbed him "the king of natural gas." Mega-billionaire, Eli Broad, the Los Angeles arts and education philanthropist and a Democrat, is another supporter.

StudentsFirst spent nearly $2 million in last year's general election to support 105 candidates across the country. The vast majority, mostly Republicans, won their races.

Is Rhee really a 'public school parent'?

On March 29th, reporter Mishak had to make a correction to his and Blume's March 26th Times story. In the earlier piece they wrote:
The 43-year-old Rhee, whose children attend public school in Tennessee, where her ex-husband [Tennessee Education Commissioner Kevin Huffman] lives, is guided by the free-market principles that characterized her tumultuous three-year tenure in Washington.
Harpeth Hall has a student/teacher ration of 9:1
Rhee continues to describe herself as a "public school parent."

But when AFTers dug  a little (like Mishak and Blume should have done) they found that Rhee was  lying, not telling the whole truth. Rhee’s older daughter goes to Harpeth Hall, Nashville’s fanciest girls school. But when Times reporters then asked her directly, she suddenly became shy about discussing where her children attend school "out of respect for their privacy,”

Writes Mishak:
Instead, after multiple emails and phone calls from Times reporters, she issued a statement apologizing for “misleading” the newspaper with her initial response. “It was not our intention to be misleading. It is our policy not to discuss where Michelle's children attend school out of respect for their privacy,” the statement says. “While it is true Michelle is a public school parent, we understand how that statement was misleading, and we apologize to the Los Angeles Times.”

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