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

Monday, April 25, 2016

Elizabeth Warren calls SEC's approval of Cohen's firm 'a mockery'. Corrupt hedge-funder, charter supporter.

Hedge-funder Steve Cohen
“The commission has permitted a recidivist hedge fund manager, well-known for his former company’s willingness to evade and ignore federal law, to once again profit from – and potentially exploit – investors.” -- Sen. Elizabeth Warren

Whenever I read about some crooked hedge-fund billionaire mired in scandal, I always check to see if and how they're involved with charter schools. I rarely come up empty. 

Billionaire hedge-funder Steve Cohen is one of the major underwriters of privately-run charter schools. The couple's Steven and Alexandra Cohen Foundation is a top donor to the Connecticut Coalition for Achievement Now (ConnCAN), Achievement First, Families for Excellent Schools Cohen, whose SAC Capital paid $1.2 billion in a security fraud case last year. 

The Guardian reports:
On Thursday, [Sen. Elizabeth Warren] sent a missive to Mary Jo White, SEC chair, telling her she was making “a mockery” of the regulator’s core mission.
Warren, a scourge of Wall Street, is disappointed with the agency’s decision to approve Stamford Harbor Capital to act as investment adviser to outside clients. The reason? The firm is associated with Steven Cohen, former manager of SAC Capital Advisors, who pleaded guilty to insider trading in 2013 and paid a record $1.8bn fine.
Turns out, Cohen indirectly owns Stamford Harbor Capital. He is to receive as much as 50% of client profits, but won’t have any supervisory role, according to Bloomberg.
“Steve Cohen owns the entity, but consistent with his January agreement with the SEC he will not supervise the activities of anyone working on its behalf,” Jonathan Gasthalter, a Stamford Harbor spokesman, told Bloomberg.
 “The commission has permitted a recidivist hedge fund manager, well-known for his former company’s willingness to evade and ignore federal law, to once again profit from – and potentially exploit – investors,” Warren wrote in her letter on Thursday. “This is an unacceptable outcome from the nation’s primary enforcer of securities laws, and it is the latest example of an SEC action that fails to appropriately punish guilty parties, deter future wrongdoings and protect investors.”
Why is the White House covering for Cohen? While he has been a big contributor to conservative super PACs like Chris Christie's America Leads, he's also a big backer of Dem. candidates, including Connecticut Gov. Malloy.

The Hartford Courant's Jenny Wilson reports:
Wall Street billionaires who have invested heavily in the expansion of charter schools contributed more than $200,000 to Democrats in the 2013-14 election cycle, helping Gov. Dannel P. Malloy secure re-election.
The campaign contributors earned their fortunes as hedge fund managers and private equity investors before earning reputations as "education philanthropists." They have helped bankroll charter school movements throughout the country, spending to influence elections and to support advocacy movements.
Major U.S. hedge fund managers are on pace this year to more than double the amount they gave in the 2012 election campaign, with independent fundraising groups backing Democratic presidential front-runner Hillary Clinton and Republican rival Ted Cruz receiving the most so far.

Bernie Sanders has eschewed donations from Wall Street. He has racked up a string of wins in early state nominating contests with attacks on Wall Street and calls for a more equitable distribution of the country's wealth.

Tuesday, April 12, 2016

Power Philanthropy -- The NRA of WA charter schools

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.

Writes Barkan:
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 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".