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

Thursday, April 20, 2017

Billionaire hedge-fund fraud and charter school patron gave $1M to Trump inaug

Steven Cohen, chairman and CEO of Point72 Asset Management, big Trump donor.
Scandal-ridden billionaire hedge-funder and charter-school bank-roller Steven A. Cohen is back in the news again. Turns out Cohen was among the million-dollar donors to the Trump inauguration, according to a federal filing. He wasn't the biggest donor. That honor belongs to right-wing creep Sheldon Adelson.

While he has been a big contributor to conservative super PACs like Chris Christie's America Leads, Cohen has also been a big backer of Dem. candidates, including Connecticut Gov. Malloy.

Cohen is not in jail. But he should be. Federal prosecutors in New York decided against criminally charging Cohen for fraud. Instead, they charged his investment firm (remember, corporations are people now) SAC Capital. SAC Capital pled guilty and paid a total of $1.8 billion in fines.

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.

He has also given $40 million to support his six charter schools operating in the Bronx. The Cohen's are sponsors of the Amistad Academy in New Haven, which is described here as, "a charter school serving minority students...using chants, rewards, and consequences."

I'm not sure what it is about hedge-funders like Boykin Curry of Eagle Capital, Whitney Tilson of T2 Partners, David Einhorn of Greenlight Capital, Michael Novogratz of Fortress Investment Group, Carl Icahn and the rest that attracts them to the charter world. But I suspect it has more to do with free-market ideology than anything to do with teaching and learning.

According to the Hartford Courant:
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.
If you want to know more about Cohen, read New Yorker writer Sheelah Kolhatkar's book, Black Edge: Inside Information, Dirty Money and the Quest to Bring Down the Most Wanted Man on Wall Street (Random House, 2017).