are a pernicious, steal-from-the-poor-and-give-to-the-rich scheme.
They take money from our public school students, give it instead
to private schools, and abandon many of our children in the process"
- NAACP executive director Kweisi Mfume
privatization of schooling would produce a new, highly active and
profitable industry." - Milton Friedman
billionaires who fund the American Hard Right are salivating over
the prospect of seizing control of City Hall in Newark,New Jersey,
May 14. They have found their champion: Cory Booker,
Black mayoral candidate from the city's Central Ward, a cynical
pretender who attempts to position himself as the common people's
defender while locked in the deep embrace of institutes and foundations
that bankroll virtually every assault on social and economic justice
in America. His benefactors sponsor anti-affirmative action referendums,
press for near-total disinvestment in the public sector, savage
what's left of the social safety net, and are attempting to turn
public education over to private suppliers. Along the way, Booker's
soul mates are busy ravaging the environment and trampling civil
liberties everywhere they find them.
owes his growing national prominence to this crowd, whose influence
has provided the 32 year-old with a campaign war chest rivaling
that of four-term incumbent Sharpe James. Never has a Newark election
been more closely watched by the super-rich and their political
network. Booker is their Black Hope for electoral legitimacy. Although
only a first-term councilman from a medium-sized city, the former
Rhodes scholar is already at the top of the Right's list of New
have a lot riding on Booker, a nominal Democrat. Despite over two
decades of financing inept and unattractive Black hired guns, most
of them hustlers from academia, ultra-conservatives have failed
to place an African American of their own at the controls of a mostly
non-white city. The practical and propaganda effects of such a coup
would be dramatic - and possibly devastating to the Democratic Party,
anointment as a prince in the Hard Right pantheon is based on his
support of public vouchers for private schools. This "movement,"
the creation of right-wing paymasters like the Bradley Foundation,
of Milwaukee, and the Walton Family Foundation, Bentonville, Arkansas,
hopes to drive a wedge between urban Blacks and the teachers unions.
Without amicable relations between these two Democratic pillars,
the Party, as we know it, is finished.
is the Right's eager ally. He is adored in the corridors of the
Heritage, Hoover, Manhattan and American Enterprise Institutes,
think tanks that handle publicity and publication for the Bradley
and Walton moneybags.
opportunistic young man is comfortable in the company of people
whose political ancestors hosed down and blew up Black children
in Birmingham, but now express deep compassion for these same children.
Booker announced his candidacy for mayor under a bright winter sky,
his podium framed by the twin towers of Brick House, a troubled,
low and moderate income development where he once used his Yale
Law School skills in defense of tenants rights. A local minister
with impeccable progressive credentials asked God to "bless
Cory and Team Booker.... This city needs a renewal, for our people
headquarters sits on a hill overlooking downtown. Pointing toward
the revitalized business district, the fashionably bald, former
Stanford football player called for "a Renaissance for the
rest of us." It was great grassroots, populist rhetoric, perfectly
pitched for an insurgent campaign in an overwhelmingly Black and
Hispanic city. Booker made a show of running against downtown business
interests, attempting to paint his 65 year-old opponent as a tool
of the rich. Few in the crowd were aware that Booker's own allegiances
are far more dangerous - and vastly richer.
word "vouchers" failed to form on Booker's lips; that
might have set off alarms. People of color tend to get nervous when
they hear cheering from the box seats of the Right. Newark is the
largest urban center in a state where even much of the GOP was repelled
by Republican former Jersey City Mayor Bret Schundler's 2001 gubernatorial
campaign, built largely around the issue of school vouchers.
Schundler and Booker are tight, traveling in the same far-right
direction - where the money is. Together with wealthy Republican
businessman Peter Denton, the trio founded Excellent Education for
Everyone, a local non-profit pocket with which to stuff foundation
and corporate contributions.
pal Schundler knows his way around that kind of money. He used a
big chunk of a $500,000 Walton Foundation gift to his Scholarships
for Jersey City Children non-profit to pay for advertisements featuring
himself, during an election campaign. Walton's executives didn't
object. Apparently, what's good for their candidate is good for
establishing their non-profit, the two Republicans and Booker went
on a pilgrimage to Milwaukee, Mecca for school "choice"
money, where the Bradley Foundation was concocting its newest invention:
the Black Alliance for Educational Options (BAEO).
Schundler couldn't join. But Booker became a member of the board.
Friends of Cory
is the BAEO and its patrons that have propelled a one-term councilman
into places of honor at the tables of the right-wing rich.
Free Congress Foundation proclaimed Booker among the nation's top
four "New Black Leaders," along with J.C. Watts, the Republican
congressman from Oklahoma; Deborah Walden-Ford, a professional Right
operative who also sits on the BAEO board; and Star Parker, a Republican
former welfare mother turned ultra-conservative speaking circuit
maven. The Free Congress Foundation gets a fat check every year
from Bradley - $425,000 in 2000.
sits on the board of Black America's Political Action Committee
(BAMPAC), the political toy of the ridiculous Alan Keyes, 1996 GOP
presidential candidate and MSNBC talk-show host. White Republicans
get most of BAMPAC's campaign contributions, but Cory Booker certainly
qualifies for access to some of Keyes' more than $2 million treasury.
Last year, Booker won the first BAMPAC Leader of Tomorrow Award,
bestowed on those "under 40 who promote the BAMPAC mission
and are seen as rising stars on the political landscape."
BAMPAC board member, Phyllis Meyers Berry, is president of the Center
for New Black Leadership, created out of nothingness with $215,000
from the Olin, Scaife and VCJ Foundations - and Bradley. The reader
will discover that following this kind of money is like tracing
the vector of a disease; sooner or later, it all leads back to Bradley.)
stock soared in the circles of selfish wealth. The Manhattan Institute,
home of a repulsive roster of right-wing writers and speakers, and
recipient of $250,000 in Bradley money in 2000, invited Booker to
one of its power lunches, where he effortlessly dropped Right-speak
old paradigm," he told the troglodytes, "was an entitlement
program, in which large big city mayors controlled race-based machines.
that was really about was capturing big entitlements from the state
and federal government and divvying them up among their cronies
or among the people within their organizations to protect and preserve
their organizations. It was about distributing wealth."
just two sentences, Booker managed to stimulate the Right's erogenous
zones by mentioning three of the phrases they most love to hate:
"race-based," "entitlements," and "distributing
wealth." This guy is good, very good. He speaks two distinct
languages - one to the people he wants to elect him mayor of Newark,
the other to the financially endowed, whose mission in life is to
resist redistribution of wealth to race-based groups that think
the poor could use some entitlements.
course, Black collaborators are entitled to all the money necessary
to create an alternative political movement out of whole cloth.
Foundation president Michael Joyce is the Wizard behind the curtain
in Milwaukee. Joyce's racial and educational views can be gauged
by his praise for the author of "The Bell Curve," the
infamous, American Enterprise Institute-backed book disparaging
Black intelligence. "Charles Murray, in my opinion," said
Joyce, "is one of the foremost social thinkers in this country."
Bradley gave the AEI, one of its favorite think tanks, $825,000
in 2000. Charles Murray personally amassed about $1 million dollars
from Bradley during his tenure with AEI.
Black Alliance for Educational Options has no life independent of
Bradley and its wicked sister, the Walton Foundation (Bret Schundler's
benefactor). In a December 2001, report, the liberal
People for the American Way (PFAW) asked, rhetorically, is the BAEO
a "Community Voice or Captive of the Right?" Transparency
in Media, which keeps track of right-wing foundations, describes
the BAEO as "a project" of the Bradley Foundation.
at The Black Commentator have concluded that Cory Booker's organization
is a wholly-owned subsidiary of Bradley and Walton, who play tag
team coughing up the dollars that keep its board members on the
BAEO board is a motley crew, brought together by Dr. Howard Fuller,
the Black former Milwaukee Superintendent of Schools who resigned
the post in 1995, crushed when teachers union-backed candidates
captured four of five seats on the school board, frustrating his
privatization plans. He's been seeking revenge, ever since, armed
with Bradley's checks.
PFAW's estimate, Fuller's BAEO has received $1.7 million from Bradley
since June of 2001, on top of the expense of birthing the phony
group. The Walton Foundation came up with $900,000 in seed money.
and his New Jersey GOP buddies, Schundler and Denton, journeyed
to Milwaukee to attend a BAEO "symposium" subsidized by
$125,000 from Bradley and hosted by Fuller's Bradley-funded Institute
for the Transformation of Learning.
Institute is headquartered at Marquette University, a much-favored
campus of both Bradley and Walton. Fuller's staff provides training
and indoctrination for private and charter school administrators.
Its syllabus is blatantly political. Workshops, run by BAEO board
member Zakiya Courtney, teach "the purposes and recent development
in charter schools, choice schools and the reform movement."
Classes are designed for school choice activists, who are taught
how to "network with one another and various supporters of
the word "reform" means "privatization" in Right-speak.
schools," in Fuller's lexicon, are private schools.
Reagan's favorite economist, Milton Friedman, instructed his small
but very loud foundation
to contribute $30,000 to the symposium. Then, Friedman's media folks
got busy shaping the BAEO's public face, spending an additional
$230,000 fine-tuning pro-voucher ads for a campaign that the Christian
Science Monitor valued at $3 million.
TV, radio and print blitz in selected markets around the country
featured Black and brown children, and included ads in 12 minority
publications. BAEO board members fanned out across the country,
attempting to make good on chairman Fuller's vow to "change
the face" of the school voucher "movement."
the sheer size and cost of the propaganda frenzy belied its origins.
This was no Black, grassroots movement, but an extravagantly funded,
Bradley president Michael Joyce, fervent fan of "The Bell Curve"
and paymaster for Howard Fuller, thoroughly controls the 29-member
BAEO board, through direct employment, generous grantsmanship, or
the promise of entrepreneurial opportunity. Here are some of Cory
Virginia Walden-Ford, of Washington, DC., is, as previously mentioned,
a darling of the Right. She shared top billing, along with Booker,
among the Free Congress Foundation's nominees for New Black Leadership.
Walden-Ford is executive director of D.C. Parents for School Choice,
which received $75,000 from Bradley in 1999 - 2000.
is also an operative of the National Center for Neighborhood
Enterprise (NCNE), the notorious Black GOP invention headed
by Robert Woodson. The NCNE has been funded to the tune of $6
million by far-right foundations since 1995, including $450,000
in "ongoing," yearly support from Bradley and more
than $100,000 from Bradley's Milwaukee neighbor, the ultra-conservative
Helen Bader Foundation. Woodson spent much of his career as
a Bradley Fellow with the American Enterprise Institute, a colleague
of Charles "Bell Curve" Murray.
Queens congressman Floyd Flake, the only member of the Congressional
Black Caucus to support school vouchers while in office, is the
BAEO's most successful practitioner of the art of turning public
issues to private gain. He appears to have retired from electoral
politics in order to further his financial fortunes among the
money men of the Right. Flake is president of Edison Schools,
a for-profit corporation that hovers like a vulture over all of
the nation's troubled schools, hoping that systems are declared
failures so that Edison might pluck out a public fee to "save"
employs Howard Fuller's wife, Edison Teachers College president
and BAEO board member Deborah McGriff, who is also a former
Milwaukee Schools Superintendent.
(Milwaukee seems to have become a Bradley Roach Motel for corruptible
African Americans; once you go near the foundation's lair, you
don't come out.)
befits his senior status, Flake wears many right-wing hats,
among them, "commissioner" on the Citizens Initiative
on Race and Ethnicity, a joint venture of the Manhattan and
Hoover Institutes, recipients of $250,000 and $200,000 from
Bradley, respectively, in 2000.
fellow commissioners share the same benefactor. They include
Hoover's Shelby Steele, one of the first members of the Bradley-funded
Center for New Black Leadership; previously mentioned Bradley
apparatchik Robert Woodson; and Ward Connerly, whose American
Civil Rights Institute got $150,000 from Bradley, in 2000, part
of Connerly's ongoing reward for successfully destroying affirmative
action in California state government and higher education.
white commissioner on Flake's panel, Clint Bolick, is chief
litigator for the Justice Institute, the nation's most aggressive
anti-affirmative action law firm. The Institute racked up $180,000
in Bradley grants in 2000. Bolick's legal wrecking crew effectively
eliminated affirmative action in the Texas state university
system, and is handling Bradley-affiliated school voucher cases
in Michigan, Wisconsin, and Florida.
Williams, Washington, DC. The radio and TV commentator, who is
among the most obnoxious public personalities alive, is the nation's
premier Black Republican right-winger for hire. His Renaissance
Network television show is even titled, "The Right Side."
Williams worked for Clarence Thomas at the EEOC, and for South
Carolina Senator Strom Thurmond. His public relations company,
the Graham Williams Group, features links to the entire galaxy
of right-wing "public policy organizations," including
the American Enterprise Institute, the Hoover Institute, the Hudson
Institute ($250,000 from Bradley in 2000), and the Free Congress
Foundation. And, of course, Bradley.
Kenneth Blackwell, Republican Secretary of State, Ohio. He's on
the boards of every Right-funded "school choice," "youth,"
or "pro-family" group imaginable. Blackwell acted as
the front-line African American TV mouth for Bush during the Florida
Rufus Ellis, Tallahassee, Florida. He's one of Governor Jeb Bush's
Black operatives, a salaried official of the state's weirdly hybrid
Office of Public School Choice and Charter Schools, essentially
a patronage unit for political propaganda.
T. Willard Fair, Miami. A buddy of Governor Jeb Bush, Fair co-founded
the Liberty Charter School with the younger brother. As executive
director, Fair placed his Greater Miami Urban League chapter in
the uniquely shameful position of being represented by the above-mentioned,
Bradley-funded Institute for Justice.
Cissell's salary as community relations director at the Greater
Educational Opportunities Foundation is largely paid for with
Bradley and Friedman Foundation money.
are many more examples of the slavish and mercenary nature of Cory
Booker's school voucher associations. Much of the rest of the BAEO
board is in the business of education, eager to expand the private
school market in hope of selling more of their products. All are
hopelessly entangled in an interlocking network of Right-funded
organizations, with the Bradley and Walton Foundations at the center
of the web.
Booker is wallowing in the funkiest corner of the political barnyard.
to People for the American Way, the Bradley Foundation distributed
$365 million to various right-wing organizations between 1985 and
1999. In the process, the foundation and its collaborating institutions
created the appearance of popular movements where none had previously
existed, distorting the American political dialogue beyond measure.
the reflexive racism that inhibited The Right from cultivating Black
proxies in the past, has been replaced by a kind of born-again enthusiasm
to recruit non-whites. Ultra-conservatives have discovered that
the depth of African American need, when combined with opportunism
in Black political ranks, can bear strange fruit. Cory Booker's
candidacy for mayor of Newark is just such fruit of a poisoned tree.
organizations point out that primary and secondary public education
in the U.S. generates billions in annual expenditures, plenty of
public wealth for the Milton Friedmans of the world to covet. But
that doesn't tell the whole story.
doesn't explain why the Hard Right is courting Cory Booker, an otherwise
minor African American politician, so breathlessly that it risks
unmasking and embarrassing their own candidate, their Black Hope.
it is because they have no other choice. The nation's big cities
are largely Black and brown and, without legitimacy among African
American voters, The Right will get nowhere in its bid to break
what's left of the Democratic Party's urban coalition. It took a
long time, and the racists were forced to swallow hard, but they
are now prepared to seriously bankroll Blacks who are willing to
dance to their tune. It's Open Admissions at the Billionaires Club!
Booker succeeds in becoming mayor of New Jersey's largest city,
the historic enemies of African American dignity will have won a
major test of the power of money to confuse and exploit a proud
people. Blacks are the backbone of progressive electoral politics
in the U.S. Unlike other ethnic groups, we have never wavered in
our defense of the principles of human equality, ideals that are
incompatible with the raw rule of wealth.
Hard Right, so adept at deploying its almost bottomless finances
to create "instant" organizations, thinks that it can
taste a dark victory, in Newark and beyond. But it's a simple matter
to expose and derail them.
follow the money. Cory Booker does. His impressive education served
only to teach him the quickest route to the houses of the wealthy.
Once inside the gate, Booker promptly offered his services. The
Young Frankenstein is now plugged in to power, lacking only the
national profile that Newark's City Hall would provide - to both
the grotesquely wired candidate and the men who pay his utility
latest benediction of the Booker campaign comes from columnist George
F. Will, the high priest of privatization. Will has been busy for
over three decades planting land mines along every step of Black
people's march toward equality. His endorsement should represent
the kiss of death to Booker's candidacy. Indeed, Will, whose prescription
for urban unemployment is that the jobless move somewhere else,
came close to giving away the entire Booker game.
plans for Newark's renaissance," Will's March 17 column informs
us, "are drawn from thinkers at the Democratic Leadership Council
and the Manhattan Institute think tank, and from the experiences
of others such as Stephen Goldsmith, former Republican mayor of
Indianapolis, a pioneer of privatization and faith-based delivery
of some government services, and John Norquist, current Democratic
mayor of Milwaukee, which has one of the nation's most successful
Lordy! George F. Will spoke the truth, for once - kind of. All of
Booker's ideas are scripted in the Republican Party and its affiliated
think tanks. They also circulate among the right-leaning members
of the Democratic Leadership Council, whose roots are in the southern
branch of the party.
already know who fertilizes these brilliant ideas, designed for
the sole purpose of producing a bounteous harvest for the rich.
F. Will's beloved Mayor of Milwaukee, John Norquist, sits in the
shadow of - could it be? - the Milwaukee-based Bradley Foundation,
which has pledged $20 million to create new private schools in Milwaukee
over the next ten years, but tossed only $60,000 to the public school
system in year 2000. (That's how some of the super-rich show their
contempt. For them, it's a cheap, but satisfying, insult.)
for Milwaukee running "one of the nation's most successful
school-choice programs," there is no evidence that this is
the case, other than the fact that Will and other ultra-Rightists
keep saying so. Successive studies have shown the program to be
ineffective by any rational testing criteria. Moreover, Milwaukee
gives ever-escalating payments to religious schools, with
little discernable effect than to prop up the private systems at
the expense of public education. In 2000, a Milwaukee NAACP and
People for the American Way investigation found that "schools
are tilting their admissions process to favor selected students
such as their parishioners
charging illegal fees to voucher
and violating students' right to religious freedom
by actively discouraging parents from opting their children out
of religious activities."
of the schools involved in the Milwaukee program are Catholic.
the overwhelming majority of the students participating in Milwaukee's
voucher -"choice" program are minorities, as are 75% of
the public students, critics universally view it as a stalking horse
to eventually subsidize all private schools, everywhere.
In Milwaukee and the country at-large, the vast bulk of private
school students are white, from above-average income families. If
these schools were subsidized, thus making them more attractive
and accessible to the entire universe of voting families, the fate
of public education would be sealed. (Teachers unions would also
become an endangered species, in the process - the immediate political
goal of the Right.)
Congressman Floyd Flake, BAEO Chairman Howard Fuller's wife, Deborah,
and the rest of the executives at predatory Edison Schools, Inc.,
will feast over the ruins, scavenging from coast to coast to "save"
systems mortally wounded by - Flake and Fuller and the entire Bradley-Walton
Booker doesn't share many of these bright ideas with the public
while on the stump in Newark. He's busy running against the influence
"downtown" business exerts over Mayor Sharpe James - which
is, no doubt, considerable. Booker's deals with mega-devils remain
largely unknown to the man and woman in the neighborhoods.
F. Will gloats that the Booker campaign "has raised $1.5 million,
partly through reform-minded supporters in New York financial circles."
The venerable word "reform" is among the many progressive
terms that have been stolen by the Hard Right. The people Will is
really referring to are the same ultra-conservatives who fund the
Manhattan, Heritage, Hoover and American Enterprise Institutes,
as has been vastly documented. Cory Booker is just another of their
projects, albeit an important one.
Bradley Foundation rules Milwaukee, but that city's Mayor is white.
With Cory Booker in the Mayor's seat in Newark, Bradley's urban
model would acquire racial legitimacy, the prize that has so long
eluded the wealthy men who can, usually, buy just about anything.
Booker is selling them a seat at the Black table, and an opportunity
for them to tell the rest of African America, YOU are unrepresentative,
out of touch with the Black masses. Look at Cory! He's down with
us! Shut up, and watch the private sector work its miracles. Enjoy
our largess, as it trickles down.
more than a trickle is flowing to Booker's campaign. "He has
enough to finance cable television ads, direct mail and political
infantry going door to door telling people that Booker is an African
American linked to neither the Klan nor the Elders of Zion,"
proclaims George F. Will. As one of the Hard Right's most faithful
and well-paid propagandists, Will is certainly in a position to
know such things.
that you know who is financing Cory Booker's career - something
that his neighborhood troops are surely unaware of - shun him. He
doesn't really need or want your company, anyway. There's lots of
good fixin's at the Big House. The price of admission is as expensive,
or cheap, as the value one places on one's people.
may win in Newark, May 14. But even if he is exposed and defeated,
his career is already made. The millionaires of the Hard Right love
this guy, their Chosen African American Under Forty. At his age,
Cory will be a blight on the political scene even longer than the
rest of the Four Cs (colored conservatives counting cash): Condoleezza,
Clarence, and Colin.
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