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.
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.
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.