|Billionaire charter school power-philanthropists Bill Gates, Reed Hastings (left), Alice Walton, Paul Allen.|
Joanne Barkan's power-structure research has been cited on the pages of this blog on several occasions. Now she's written another scathing expose of power philanthropy, "Charitable Plutocracy: Bill Gates, Washington State, and the Nuisance of Democracy" in NPQ,
Barkan takes a deeper look in how Gates and fellow philanthro-billionaires leveraged their tax-exempt foundation money to force privately-run charters down the throats of Washingtonians after the leadership of both houses of the WA legislature opposed the 2012 charter bill. When it died in committee, the activist billionaires stepped in, with Gates in the lead, to finance yet another charter school ballot initiative—the state’s fourth.
According to the Washington Times, their lobbying campaign to save Washington’s charters spent nearly $1.9 million to influence the public and state lawmakers.
Call it charitable plutocracy—a peculiarly American phenomenon, increasingly problematic and in need of greater scrutiny. Like all forms of plutocracy, this one conflicts with democracy, and exactly how these philanthropists coordinate tax-exempt grantmaking with political funding for maximum effect remains largely obscure.
The Washington charter saga highlights the workings of charitable plutocracy. Multibillionaire philanthropists use their personal wealth, their tax-exempt private foundations, and their high-profile identities as philanthropists to mold public policy to a degree not possible for other citizens.Among the biggest funders of the WA charter school push were, Gates ($1 million), Alice Walton (from Arkansas, $600,000), Mike and Jackie Bezos (parents of Amazon.com founder Jeff Bezos, $500,000), venture capitalist Nicolas Hanauer ($450,000), Katherine Binder (chair of EMFCO Holdings, $200,000), Paul Allen’s Vulcan, Inc. ($100,000), and Reed Hastings, from California (Netflix cofounder and KIPP charter schools board member, $100,000).
These guys are not "do-gooders".