It has become commonplace, and expected, that campaigns can get pretty dirty. In order to help candidates maintain a squeaky clean appearance, special interest groups often form heavily fund political action committees (aka PAC) to either support, or oppose candidates. The tactics used by some PACs leave little to disguise their unethical and immoral practices. Some of the things that transpired during the recent BESE election would be considered par for the course for most PACs, but not something you would expect from an organization that claims to have the best interests of children in mind. One such organization is the Oregon based, Stand for Children (SFC).
Before going into what transpired, let me give a short background on SFC. The organization, itself, sprouted out of the 2006 march on the Capital in Washington, DC. It was called Take a Stand For Children Day. In its infancy, SFC had great ideas. The main focus was to help provide affordable healthcare to underprivileged children, help find alternate sources of funding for school in desperate need of supplies and many other things that made a positive difference in schools.
In 2009, SFC made a complete change in its mission when it applied for and received a grant from the Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation. An organization that once provided necessities to teachers and student became an organization that attacked teachers, tried to bust their unions, lobbied and pushed for teacher evaluations tied to test scores, charter schools and cuts in funding that resulted in larger classrooms trying to operate under tighter budgets. Reaching outside of their Oregon roots, they expanded to Illinois, Colorado, Massachusetts, Louisiana and more, totaling eleven states.
In Louisiana, the former director of the Louisiana chapter, Rayne Martin, played an essential role in creating the COMPASS evaluation system for teachers. A director of a non-profit with zero teaching experience, no training and no degree in education managed to create an evaluation system for teachers and with the other lobbyists in their organization, convinced the legislature to pass it into law. SFC operates two PACs in Louisiana. These PACs receive contributions from the parent organization, SFC, and other philanthropist around the country. The single largest contributor, this year, was a non-profit based in Houston, TX and run by retired millionaire, Denis Calabrese. Although much of the actions of SFC are despicable, what took place during the October 24, 2015 BESE elections should speak volumes for their lack of ethical and moral compasses.
During the weeks leading up to election day, SFC expended approximately $400,000 to support a number of “reform” candidates, including Jim Garvey, Jada Lewis and Holly Boffy. These expenditures were in the form of mailouts, phone calls and television ads. Jada Lewis was running for the District 8 seat against incumbent, Carolyn Hill. Through a number of television station throughout District 8, SFC began to run an ad that puts a gaping hole in their reputation that cannot be repaired. Contracted through Innovative Advertising, they created an ad that gave the appearance of a “news story” that revealed a news flash about incumbent, Carolyn Hill, having numerous arrests and a current active warrant for her arrest. Of course, none of this was true. We confirmed it, and you can do with the following links: East Baton Rouge Sheriff’s Office, City of Baton Rouge Warrants, City of Port Allen Warrants, and you can call the West Baton Sheriffs Office and confirm on the phone. SFC spent in excess of $66,000 to run this ad on WBRZ.
Now, we want to take a moment to also point out that the call letters on the fictitious ad are WBRD, which closely resembles one of the stations that was running the ad, WBRZ. In what was one of the poorest displays of “ethical journalism,” WBRZ did not stop the ad from running until the public complained about it. The even went so far as to treat it like they were reporting on a 3rd party station in this news story.
That is a wrap for this blog. We think it is pretty apparent that SFC is not the fine organization that it claims to be. They should change their name to Stand for Corporations. As a side note on a future blog we are currently working on, you may remember the “transformation” blog we published last week about former Calcasieu Parish Assistant Principal, Keith Leger. Leger’s current employer is SFC. He serves as a project manager. In addition, he also served as chairperson of Holly Boffy’s campaign in her bid for the District 7 BESE seat. We have been notified that someone is looking into a possible ethics violation. It seems that the law forbids big PACs from coordinating campaign strategies with a candidate. Leger not only served as chairperson, but also accompanied Boffy to campaign appearances at board meetings and civic organizations. With his employer being organizer of the PAC, it would appear as though the law has been violated.