Joravsky post reminds me of my stalker Ben Velderman.

benvelderman

If you’re a long time reader of this blog you can hit the remote.

If you play the drinking game that involves downing a shot when I post a picture of my stalker, Ben Velderman, get to the liquor cabinet.

Chicago Reader columnist Ben Joravsky reports today on the difficulty of getting a response to a Freedom of Information Act (FOIA) request from Rahm Emanuel, the City of Chicago or the Chicago Public Schools.

Joravsky’s story involves the attempt by Joanna Brown of the Logan Square Neighborhood Association to get information on the secret attempts to turn one of our local schools into a military academy in spite of community opposition.

FOIA becomes a devious way to keep the public clueless and easier to control.

In any event, Joanna Brown of the LSNA sent her request to CPS in May 2012. Summer, spring, and most of fall came and went with no response.

So on November 8, Brown sent CPS a subtle reminder, along the lines of, “WTF, man, where’s my FOIA stuff?”

Finally, on January 11, 2013, she got a response—a blank sign-in sheet for a public meeting. At the top of the paper someone had handwritten “no attendees.”

When going after those in power there is no information in FOIA. No freedom of information in FOIA. And it’s mostly an act.

Back in the day, when I was still teaching and union president, a group of teacher union haters in Michigan called the Education Action Group, filed a FOIA request for all my work emails and personnel file.

The request was officially filed by the guy pictured above. Ben Velderman. Back then Velderman’s main job was getting coffee for the groups leader, Kyle Olson. And for filing FOIA requests against union activists.

While Velderman was doing the FOIA thing, his boss Olson was making a national tour attacking the children’s book, Click, Clack Moo. Cows that Type as Bolshevik propaganda. 

It’s a great book, by the way.

Now Velderman has been promoted. In addition to getting Olson’s coffee he does multiple posts daily on the EAG blog. And EAG wisely changed photos of him.

Unlike Rahm, the City of Chicago and CPS, my emails were handed over to EAG within a few days. Years of work emails. All my teaching evaluations. Excellent ones, by the way.

Two sets of FOIA rules. One for Rahm. One for a classroom teacher and union guy.

Who would have thought?

Ben Velderman. My stalker and dark money.

Ben Velderman

My stalker Ben Velderman in 2010 and more recently.

Some of my older readers may recall Ben Velderman. Back when I was president of the union local, the Park Ridge Education Association, Ben filed a Freedom of Information Act request for all of my work emails and my personnel file.

As a public employee, he was entitled to receive them after they had been redacted of information that made reference to kids or named third parties.

Ben got a lot of art supply order forms, faculty meeting agendas and copies of my excellent evaluations.

Ben wasn’t filing a FOIA request on his own. He works for a Michigan-based anti-union grouplet called the Education Action Group. It’s an ironic name considering they are against public education, do action that mainly consists of harassing union activists and are a group that is so small they could hold their annual convention in a toilet stall.

AEG’s leader is Kyle Olson. Olson’s fame centers on his campaign to remove the picture book, Click Clack Moo, Cows that Type, from kindergarten classrooms on the basis that it mentions the word negotiation. Olson claimed the book was pro-union indoctrination.

Which it is, by the way. Great book. Buy it for your kids this holiday season.

Although Olson promised to “make me his personal project,” I haven’t heard from him in a while.

Until yesterday.

AEG is really a creation of a right-wing stink tank called the Mackinac Center for Public Policy. It in turn is funded with Koch brothers and De Vos family money. That is hard to prove because it is funded with dark money – money that is bundled and hidden from public scrutiny by recent Supreme Court decisions.

So it was with interest that I read yesterday’s Sun-Times editorial about the Mackinac Center and dark money.

It now appears that the latest project of the Mackinac Center is defending the tobacco industry.

Let’s see: Anti-public schools. Anti-union. Pro-tobacco industry.

The Mackinac Center wanted the Sun-Times to publish an op-ed piece they wrote opposing Illinois plans to raise taxes on smokes.

Amazingly the Sun-Times wrote an editorial explaining why they wouldn’t print it.

It was a nicely written op-ed and made good points, but we had one big problem with it: We were unfamiliar with the Mackinac Center and, when we asked, they would not say who pays their bills. How could we possibly publish their op-ed railing cigarette taxes when, for all we knew, they secretly were paid by the tobacco industry?

The Sun-Times went on:

As a result of recent Supreme Court decisions that free up spending on elections, record sums are being spent by nonprofit groups to influence the public’s views on policy issues of the day, such as taxation and term limits, and on the candidates themselves. Much of that money is spent directly, used to produce op-eds, social media messaging and TV and radio ads; much more is filtered through political action committees on steroids — SuperPACs — to benefit specific candidates.

Such nonprofits — called “dark money” groups because they do not reveal their donors — spent more than $256 million in the 2012 federal elections, according to ProPublica, the investigative journalism outfit. In Illinois, about $800,000 in dark money was spent on state legislative races in 2012, according to the Illinois Campaign for Political Reform.

The Sun-Times concludes:

In general, though, when a group that cannot claim long and familiar roots does not reveal its funders, we hold it to a more skeptical standard, and we urge you to do the same.

“It’s not exactly a partisan issue, but it’s a wealthy person issue,” David Morrison, deputy director of the Illinois Campaign for Political Reform, told us. “Who has the resources to put their money into something like this? They say they want to protect their members, but the reality is they may have a very small number of members. They’re trying to create the impression of a movement.”

Let’s start our own movement: Reveal your sugar daddies or move along.

Yes indeed.

Who paid Ben Velderman to file a FOIA request for my emails and personnel file? I’ll never know.

And by the way. The Illinois Policy Institute – the group that is leading the charge on public employee pensions?

Funded with dark money.

The latest news from Ben Velderman and the Michigan right-wing yahoos.

benvelderman

My old stalker pal Ben Velderman. Still looking weird after all these years.

New readers to this blog may not know about my stalker Ben Velderman.

Let me do a quick recap.

A couple of years ago when I was still employed as a teacher in Park Ridge District 64 – back before my days as a retiree pension activist – a little cult of right-wing yahoos in Western Michigan called the Education Action Group filed a Freedom of Information Act request for all my work emails and my personnel file.

Why? Because I was an activist, unionist and widely read education blogger and they wanted to shut me up.

The EAG is grandly misnamed. They have little to do with Education. Their action consists of filing FOIA requests against progressive teachers. And they are barely a group.

Ben Velderman was the guy whose name was on the FOIA request. The actual cult leader’s name is Kyle Olson. Olson’s other claim to fame has been his travels around the country, appearing on right-wing talk radio to attack a children’s book called Click Clack Moo. Cows that Type. Olson believes it is Bolshevik propaganda that the unions are sneaking into kindergarten classrooms.

My first step was to call the IEA. I spoke with IEA leaders at the highest levels. Executive Director Audrey Soglin to name one. They expressed their deepest concern for me and wished me the best of luck.

Great? Right.

I then launched a blog campaign of mockery and ridicule. That seemed to do the trick. The EAG bullies threatened to, in Kyle Olson’s words, “make Klonsky my project.” They never were to be heard from again, at least my me. But what can they do to a retiree? Fire me from retirement? Make me work again?

Today I read that the Mackinac Center is in trouble for committing fraud.  There are close ties between the Mackinac Center and the EAG. The share funding by right-wing millionaires like the DeVos family and the Koch brothers. And they go to great lengths to conceal their funding and their connections to each other.

From Teamster Nation:

Michigan’s nasty Mackinac Center is accused of breaking the law because it pretends to be a think tank when it’s really a lobbying organization.

The Mackinac pushed for the No Rights At Work bills jammed through the Legislature’s lame-duck session last year. It’s funded by the usual anti-worker billionaires: the Benedict Arnold Koch brothers, Ponzi scheme Amway heir Dick DeVos, the Wal-Mart heirs and the Wisconsin-Job-killer-Gov.-Scott-Walker-loving Bradley Foundation. 

Yesterday, Progress Michigan released an audiotape that it says proves the Mackinac Center isn’t the non-profit it claims to be. F. Vincent Vernuccio, the Mackinac Center’s Director of Labor Policy, admitted to meeting with lawmakers to make a plan for ramming RTW laws through the Legislature. And wouldn’t you know it, he was taking to the Koch-funded Americans for Prosperity phony tea party group. 

In a statement, Progress Michigan said: 

“It’s clear that despite calling itself a non-partisan think tank, the Mackinac Center has been intimately involved in lobbying Republicans to get their legislative agenda passed – and the worst part is, they’re doing it without even a minimal amount of transparency or disclosure.”… 

While the Mackinac Center does not admit to lobbying to the federal Internal Revenue Service or the state of Michigan, emails obtained by Progress Michigan in 2011 indicated that the Mackinac Center was actively seeking to influence the legislative process on a series of bills related to health care benefits for teachers and other public workers. 

Michigan law requires that any individual or corporation who lobbies must register with the Secretary of State and report lobbying expenditures. Lobbying is defined under Section 4.415 of Public Act 472 of 1978 as “communicating directly with an official in the executive branch of state government or an official in the legislative branch of state government for the purpose of influencing legislative or administrative action.” 

In 2012 Congressman Sander Levin sent the IRS a letter asking them to investigate the tax-exempt status of the Mackinac Center after the revelation of a series of emails indicating “a long-term plan to lobby.” The Mackinac Center again checked the box on their 2011 Form 990 to the IRS indicating that they do not engage in lobbying activities.You can hear the audiotape here

Ben Velderman and the end of the NEA.

The return of Ben Velderman.

Last week it was the crazy group of standardized test critics who jubilantly predicted the death of teacher unions. These are not your typical testing critics, since millions of the wisest critics are members of the teacher unions.

This week it is my old stalker from the right-wing, Ben Velderman of the Education Action Group.

You remember Ben. He’s the one who filed a Freedom of Information Act request last year for all my work emails and for my personnel file.

Predicting and rooting for the death of teacher unions is nothing new. What’s interesting is the broad political spectrum it now includes.

Ben bases his prediction on the decline in union membership.

He gives Wisconsin as an example.

This is like the old joke about the guy who murders his parents and then asks for mercy from the judge because he is an orphan.

EAG’s favorite Governor, Wisconsin’s Scott Walker, destroys union collective bargaining. He slashes wages and benefits. Teachers leave the profession in droves. And Velderman claims this is a result of teacher rejection of unions.

It makes no more sense than what we heard last week from the opters.

Finger paint.

The last couple of days the Education Action Group’s Kyle Olson has been freaking out over on his Twitter site about my salary and my job.

“$100,000 to teach kids to finger paint.”

Oh. Later he added clay moulding to my job description.

Like I should be ashamed of my salary, which is far less than I would be making in the private sector at my age and level of education.

Or that I should be ashamed at being a K-5 Art teacher.

Well. You know. The Arts.

I actually do finger paint with the kindergarten kids. Olson should try it. It might calm him down.

But I stand by the value of a quality art program for every student. It is harder and harder to fit it into the school day that Olson would like: Testing and then more testing.

As for my salary. It’s good, but I earn it. We’re so not ashamed of what we earn that our Association publishes our salary schedule on our non-password website. Olson would like you to believe he had to go internet searching to find out what we make. No need, Kyle. It’s right out there in the open.

Which is more than Olson can claim.

His funders are secret.

Kyle Olson’s latest target: teaching about Gay and lesbian equality.

With the passing of right-wing blogger and video-liar, Andrew Breitbart, Kyle Olson has stepped up to take his place.

Olson is the little-known leader of a small band of teacher-bashing, union haters in western Michigan called the Education Action Group. His targets have been the Michigan Education Association, individual teacher activists and children’s books like Click Clack Moo, Cows that Type. Now he is a regular at Breitbart’s old blog as their education witch hunter writer.

Olson is convinced that there is a plot to indoctrinate children.

And of course, he’s right. There is a plot to indoctrinate children in the ideas of fairness, equality, social justice and truth.

You remember that it was Olson’s office boy, Ben Velderman, who put his name on the FOIA request for my work emails and my personnel file.

When they got them, they found bupkis.

Olson’s latest target is the attempt to include in social studies curricula a discussion of Gay and lesbian equality issues.

Here is a part of the video that has gotten Olson shorts in a knot.

Breitbart gone. Kyle Olson picks up his banner.

Glen Yarbrough left the Limelighters.

To those who thought the passing of Andrew Breitbart last week at the age of 43 meant the end of an era of mindless right-wing yahoo bloggers (and I’m pretty sure that most of you did not), I present Kyle Olson.

Olson’s resume has mainly consisted of heading a tiny group of teacher haters in Western Michigan called the Education Action Group. EAG funding remains cloudy. But you can guess that the money comes from the usual suspects like the Koch brothers.

Since Olson’s Twitter followers number less than the number of old guys who hang out down the block at the Two-Way bar at 4:30 in the afternoon sipping Old Style, we can pretty much figure that his funding isn’t coming from small individual donors captivated by his attacks on children’s books like Click Clack Moo, Cows That Type.

He also spends a lot of his time sending his little gofer, Ben Velderman, out for coffee and to file FOIA requests on activist teachers like me. He FOIAed my work emails and personnel file, accused me of being a terrorist, and promised his mentor, Andrew Breitbart, that he was going to make “a project” of me.

Haven’t heard from him since.

Maybe he’s been busy watching sex tapes with Rush. Who knows?

So, when Breitbart died from natural causes last week (although to watch the video of him screaming at Occupy protesters in DC just before he died, I’m guessing some recreational chemicals might have played a role), Kyle took a few days to mourn and then wrote:

The fight for freedom lost its chief warrior with the sudden passing of Andrew Breitbart early Thursday morning.

Andrew was determined to take the fight directly to the enemies of American exceptionalism.  His resolve to proudly carry the torch of liberty gave thousands of conservatives across the nation courage, a voice and a platform.

I am looking forward to launching his newest site, BigEducation.com, as its editor in April. We will continue his work of exposing the radicals who have overtaken our public education system.

While a prominent flag bearer of the fight for American freedom has fallen, the battle that he led will continue on.

 I and my colleagues at Education Action Group would like to express our deepest condolences to Andrew’s wife and young children.

Kyle now moves up to a new blog. Will he leave his buddies like Ben Velderman behind? Like Teddy Pendergrass leaving Harold Melvin and the Blue Notes? Michael Jackson leaving the Jackson 5? Glen Yarbrough dishing the Limelighters?

Kyle won’t be the first one to step over the little people on his way to the top.

Hope College. Mea Culpa.

Ben Velderman of AEG does not represent the students of Hope College.

Back last March when Ben Velderman of the right-wing anti-union Michigan-based Education Action Group had made a FOIA request of my work emails, I ran a post about his alma mater, Hope College.

Without much investigation, I suggested it was an intolerant place.

Lately I have received some emails from Hope alums telling me that Velderman does not represent or reflect the views of most Hope students.

Some suggested that many Hope students have views closer to mine than Ben’s.

My apologies.

Of all people, I should know not to generalize about a group based on the nuttiness of one person.

Ben Velderman stalking me is okay but filing a FOIA request about Sears tax breaks is illegal.

Last Spring Ben Velderman, the creepy guy pictured above, filed an Illinois FOIA request for all my work emails. After school district lawyers redacted the names of students and other innocent by-standers, hundreds of emails were delivered to Ben.

Then this Fall Ben Velderman’s boss, Kyle Olson of the Education Action Group, having promised to “make a project” out of me, filed another FOIA request for my personnel file. After the district lawyers redacted confidential material, my personnel file was sent to Olson.

By the way, I can view my own personnel file, but I can’t remove it from the HR office. But Olson can get an entire copy.

Which makes todays news out of suburban Hoffman Estates very odd indeed.

Hoffman Estates is the headquarters of Sears. The Illinois General Assembly just gave Sears an extension of their million dollars in tax breaks. In doing so they continue to deprive school District 300 funding since Illinois insists that schools be funded by local tax money.

When two parents filed two FOIA requests of Sears, they were labeled as “recurrent requesters” which allows a delay from five days to 21 days.

Hey folks. That’s how the system works. What can I say?