The pro-charter group Families for Excellent Schools Inc. reported spending nearly $2.9 million on lobbying efforts during September and October. The amount appears to be more than double the previous record for spending by any lobbying client during these months, a time of year when most political activity is directed toward elections and lobbying campaigns rarely top a few hundred thousand dollars, according to information maintained by the Joint Commission on Public Ethics.
The group has been on the front lines of a recent push both to expand New York's charter sector and to fight Mayor Bill de Blasio, who is accused by F.E.S. and other groups accuse of being anti-charter.
F.E.S. has helped organize massive pro-charter rallies in New York City and Albany over the past year, which have influenced public policy on charter schools.
For F.E.S.' most recent rally, held Oct. 2 in Manhattan to highlight failing schools, the group paid $68,705 for buses, $59,750 for Metrocards, $6,552 for phone calls inviting attendees, $1,860 for insurance, $870 for an ambulance, and $730 for porta-potties, according to the ethics commission. There was no item accounting for Questlove's DJ performance at the rally.
The bulk of F.E.S.' September and October spending was spent in October. The group reported spending $2.2 million in October, compared to $625,402 in September, according to the ethics commission.
Throughout those two months, the group spent $479,200 on an ad buy highlighting the plight of students “trapped in failing schools.” Last March and April, during the height of a battle over charter school space between charter advocates and the de Blasio administration, F.E.S. spent $3.5 million, the filings show.
F.E.S. has repeatedly declined to release a list of its donors, despite pressure from de Blasio and advocacy groups.
So here we have this pro-group with its shadowy donors spending record numbers of dollars on lobbying as the battle over the charter cap and the next slate of co-locations heats up.
We know they already have an ally in Cuomo, who sucks up the pro-charter supporter dollars at a pretty good clip himself.
You can bet the spending by F.E.S. and other charter groups will increase even more after Cuomo's State of the State Speech in January in which he gives us details on how he plans to bring his promise to "break" the public school "monopoly" to fruition.
Much of the charter school cash will end up in the pockets of Albany pols or be used for a 24/7 ad campaign touting charters and criticizing public schools.
You know, stuff like this:
F.E.S has been a major agitator of the de Blasio administration over the last year, running ads criticizing the mayor's stance on charters and recently attacking chancellor Carmen Fariña for her comments that some charter schools under-enroll special needs students.
Advertising firm CPM received $1.9 million of the group’s money; 270 Strategies and Siegal Services also received a combined $292,792 for advertisements. Cornerstone was paid $446,000 for consulting, and Benenson Strategy Group received $78,335 for polling.
The F.E.S. aggregate spending total for the first 10 months of 2014 is just under $9 million.
Just how much money is this group on tap to spend this year?
Why, the most ever!
If its $2.2 million October total is replicated in both November and December, Families for Excellent Schools will have spent $13.4 million in 2014, a total that would make theirs the most expensive single-year lobby campaign in state history.
And then there are the rallies, one of which Governor Cuomo himself helped organize last year in Albany.
The amount of coordination and money that is coming in the charter cap battle looks like it is going to make previous battles look like skirmishes.
If there was any doubt that the pro-privatization movement is looking to destroy public schools sooner rather than later, the record dollars their spending on anti-public school/pro-charter lobbying efforts ought to dispel that doubt.
Eva Moskowitz told an audience at the American Enterprise Institute that Bill de Blasio and public school backers are trying to kill her schools.
Given how much money is being dropped by a shadowy group of Wall Street criminals and hedge fund crooks in support of Eva and the charter sector, it's actually the other way around.