I will protect your pensions. Nothing about your pension is going to change when I am governor. - Chris Christie, "An Open Letter to the Teachers of NJ" October, 2009

Wednesday, January 30, 2013

More Newark-Facebook Follies

Leonie Haimson has an interesting item for those following the saga of Zuck's bucks and education in Newark:
On Sunday, there was a front page story about how Bradley Tusk is coordinating the campaign against Obama’s appointment of Chuck Hagel as US Secretary of Defense on the grounds that Hagel was anti-choice and anti-gay (apparently Hagel made an anti-gay comment in 1998).  Tusk’s campaign includes TV ads and sending mailers that push Sen. Schumer to oppose the nomination with the mysterious name of “Use your Mandate” as the return address. I’ve received two of these large glossy mailers in the last week. 
Here is Tusk claiming that there is opposition to Hagel from liberals in Foreign Policy magazine:
"From the left, there's a lot of consternation about the Hagel nomination," said Bradley Tusk, former campaign manager for New York Mayor Michael Bloomberg and founder ofTusk Strategies, which is helping coordinate the campaign. "A lot of people worked hard to reelect the president, believe in the president, and don't feel like they raised money and knocked on doors to then have him nominate a defense secretary who is clearly is anti-gay and anti-choice. I think what you hear a lot from the progressive community is: Couldn't he find someone who is just as qualified on defense issues who doesn't have these other views that we find abhorrent?"
Tusk is the former Lt. Governor and right hand man to former Governor of Illinois, Rod Blagojevich, who is now serving a 14 year sentence for corruption. Subsequently, Tusk became the manager of Bloomberg’s 2009 mayoral campaign, which spent $109 million and won by only 4.5  percentage points, after inundating NYC voters will hundreds of mailers like those being sent out about Hagel.  Tusk’s website also takes credit for running the campaign that lifted the cap on charters for DFER/ERN and the hedgefunders, and states that he now works for Michelle Rhee’s StudentFirst NY and Eva Moskowitz’s chain of Success Academy charters:

With StudentsFirst, led by Michelle Rhee, we have played an integral role in the first comprehensive attempt to pursue and implement education reform across the country. This includes launching full campaigns in target cities and states across the nation. With the Success Charter Network, Tusk Strategies has helped introduce high performing charter schools to new neighborhoods across New York City.

Tusk was also paid $1.5 million of $2 million of the Facebook money for “community engagement”, that was supposed to go towards improving Newark’s schools. [Community engagement with whom, one wonders.  Michael Bloomberg, Michelle Rhee and the hedge fund community?]. [underline emphasis mine]
 A few points from this side of the Hudson:

- We all know about the Broad Foundation money that went to Global Education Advisors, NJ Education Commissioner Chris Cerf's old firm. That money, like the Facebook money, was never supposed to go into the classrooms of Newark: it was used instead to bring in a raft of consultants to remake the city's schools. Many of the folks hired knew nothing about education, producing a bunch of "hack junk."

So while we've talked quite a bit about Cerf and GEA, there has been less focus on the relationship between Tusk and Cerf:
The second biggest recipient of the Facebook money is Tusk Strategies, a New York political consulting firm that managed Mayor Michael Bloomberg’s 2009 re-election campaign. Cerf left his post as a deputy education chancellor in Bloomberg’s administration to serve on the campaign.
Calls to Tusk were not returned, but according to founder Bradley Tusk’s online biography, the group was responsible for creating and advising PENewark, the heavily-criticized campaign to gather public input on the school reform effort in Newark.
When PENewark first began its work last November, Booker said only $1 million would be spent on the effort — roughly $500,000 for salaries and $500,000 for advertising. Tusk was paid more than $1.5 million between October 2010 and April 2011, according to the e-mails. Taylor said Wednesday the cost of the PENewark initiative was $2 million. [emphasis mine]
Has there ever been an Education Commissioner more focused on getting his friends fat, juicy contracts than Chris Cerf? Over and over, his past acquaintances have benefitted from the big piles of money that flow through New Jersey's education system, with barely any oversight from the Legislature.

There is a pattern here, and it's disturbing. It's also disturbing that Tusk, Blagojevich's former right-hand man, way overshot Booker's initial estimates on the cost to run PENewark. Did anyone bother to look into this? Does anyone even care?

- By now, everyone in New Jersey knows that Mark Zuckerberg is throwing a big fundraiser for Chris Christie's re-election bid. No one is more responsible for keeping marriage equity from coming to the Garden State than Christie, yet Zuckerberg still supports him.

But here's Tusk, indignantly claiming the LGBT community is outraged at Hagel's nomination, even though Tusk happily took money from the guy who empowers New Jersey's biggest bigot. 

I wouldn't expect Tusk to give the money back at this point, but I would dearly love to hear him chastise Zuckerberg for supporting Christie, openly and publicly. Think he'll do it? If his clients really are “gay and L.G.B.T. people who have been active in campaigns around the country," they should be thrilled to hear his condemnations of Zuckerberg for backing Christie.

Though Tusk claims this campaign is being funded by progressive members of the gay community, LGBT groups have criticized Tusk for keeping his donors secret, and Rachel Maddow has suggested that it’s most likely funded by right wingers disguising themselves as liberal. The NYT article suggests that this campaign is really being financed by GOP forces allied with hawks on Israel and who may want to hand Obama a defeat.  According to the NY Times:
In an interview, Mr. Tusk would only identify its financiers as Democratic “gay and L.G.B.T. people who have been active in campaigns around the country.” Yet federal records show that Use Your Mandate uses Del Cielo Media, an arm of one of the most prominent Republican ad-buying firms in the country, Smart Media, with clients that have included the presidential campaigns of former Gov. Jon M. Huntsman Jr. of Utah and Senator John McCain of Arizona; the 2010 Senate campaign of Christine O’Donnell, who was known for positions against homosexuality, in Delaware; and, as it happens, the Emergency Committee for Israel. 
Shades of Zuck's bucks here as well: a complete lack of transparency from the neo-lib crowd. Which brings us to...

- Is anyone surprised that the guy who was in charge of "community engagement" for Zuck's bucks in Newark is also in the pocket of Rhee, Moskowitz, the hedge fundies at DFER, and all the other charter cheerleaders? All of who have nothing to do with Newark?

There was never supposed to be "community engagement" with Newark: Mayor Cory Booker, Christie, and Zuckerberg all knew what they wanted to do the minute they went on Oprah to announce the big grant.

Tusk wasn't brought in to "engage"; he was hired to spin. It's an insult to everyone in Newark's intelligence that our elitist rulers continue to pretend otherwise. 

- A big part of what Zuck's bucks were supposed to accomplish was the installation of merit payTeachers in Newark: wouldn't you have liked to have known more about all the players involved in this deal before you signed off on the contract that installed merit pay? Wouldn't you have liked to have known whether Zuck's bucks were being used to spin you a tale - just like they've been used to spin a tale for Newark's parents and taxpayers? Wouldn't you have been interested to know about all the political gamesmanship that was being played to get you to accept a merit pay system that has no evidence to support?

Teachers of Newark: do you really think people who genuinely respected you would be treating you this way?

At some point, educators are going to have to stand up and demand that the Bradley Tuskes of the world go away and leave our schools alone. They do enough damage to foreign and domestic policy as it is; they shouldn't also be allowed to ruin public education.

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