Creating 'Stand for Children' proves that the only thing green about certain 'grass roots' groups is the money they get from billionaires... Chicago doesn't need the Koch brothers when Chicago has Pritzkers, Crowns, Griffins, Finnegans, Zells — and Emanuels
"Follow the money," was the advice the character (and news source) "Deep Throat" gave to the Washington Post reporters Bob Woodward and Carl Bernstein during the Washington Post's history-making investigation of the Watergate break in during the run-up to the 1972 presidential election. As most people still know (if not from history, from the movie "All The President's Men"), the Post's reporting led to the scandals that forced the resignation of President Richard Nixon.
Even though most American newspapers have been gutted by their owners during the four decades since "Watergate" became a synonym for Republican corruption and dirty tricks (most newspapers have now turned into propaganda machines for the superrich, with reporters outnumbered by corporate publicists in ratios of ten and 20 to one), the advice "Follow the money" is still as good as ever. That advice is especially good when examining the claims of all those "grass roots" groups that have sprouted up like dandelions the past couple of years. As the superrich pour their extra dollars into reshaping the world in their image (and busting the nation's remaining unions and public schools in the process), every so-called "grass roots" group demands a second look, especially when its agenda is banning strikes, busting unions, and privatizing public education — like Chicago's "Stand for Children" and "Advance Illinois".
Or look at it another way as tax time approaches and teachers labor over their tax returns. How many people do you know who could write a check for, say, $50,000, or $100,000 — or even $500,000 for a "worthy cause"? The reason the question is relevant today is that those checks for $50,000 (from several members of the billionaire Pritzker and Crown families), $100,000 (from Sam Zell, who bankrupted the Tribune corporation both financially and ethically), and $500,000 from Ken Griffin (the best know of Chicago's hedge fun billionaires) all went to Stand for Children Illinois just before it became illegal for such large amounts to go to political lobbying groups in Illinois. All of that generosity poured into Stand for Children during the weeks it was pushing a law called "Performance Counts" in the Illinois General Assembly, between December 1, 2010 and December 31, 2010, according to state election records.
As more and more working people and teachers are learning the truth behind the fabricated "grass roots" groups that are being organized to support the policies of the wealthiest people in the world, there has been a growing call for boycotts and other actions against billionaires ranging from the Koch brothers (of Koch Industries, which helped bankroll Wisconsin governor Scott Walker) and Bill Gates (whose Microsoft Corporation funds his union busting attacks on public education) to the ever present Walton (Wal-Mart) billionaires.
But in many cities, including Chicago, the local billionaires "boys and girls clubs" (to take a hint from Diane Ravitch's book "The death and life of the Great American School System", which has a chapter about Gates, Walton and the Broads entitled "The Billionaire Boys Club") are within a few blocks of many public schools. Two of America's wealthiest families (according to Forbes magazine, which has a fetish about such things) are the Pritzkers (Hyatt Hotels, Royal Caribbean Cruise Lines, Pritzker Realty, and many many other interests) and the Crowns (Materials Service Corporation, which Rahm Emanuel wants to enrich while privatizing recycling).
Along with several Pritzkers and Crowns, a dozen other Chicago multi-millionaires and billionaires created "Stand for Children" in Illinois in a flash by writing checks ranging in size from $50,000 (from each of six Pritzkers) to $500,000 (from Ken Griffin).
As a result, Illinois had a new "grass roots" organization — Stand for Children Illinois — overnight. After a couple of quickie runs through carefully selected children, teachers, and parents (following a viewing of the privatization propaganda flick "Waiting for Superman"), Stand for Children claimed that it had received a mandate from "parents" and "teachers" to stand up for children in Illinois by proposing that the Illinois General Assembly pass — quickly, there was NO TIME TO WASTE!!! — a piece of pre-written law called "Performance Counts 2010." On the way to getting their law approved their way, Stand for Children pumped a half million (more or less) into the campaign funds of politicians running in the November 2, 2010 Illinois elections. By most measures, Stand for Children had created what every Chicagoan knows clout can do — the "Done Deal."
Illinois House Speaker Michael Madigan (who did not receive any dollars from Stand for Children's PAC) even obliged the group by setting up a thing called the "Illinois House of Representatives School Reform Committee," sidestepping the education committees of the House and Senate in the process. When the "School Reform" committee announced it was holding hearings in Aurora in December, "Stand for Children" (along with another phony grass roots group called "Advance Illinois") was given the privilege of being on of the two true "school reform" groups called on to testify before the committee. Nobody on the committee even noticed that Stand for Children Illinois hadn't existed 120 days before the committee's December 16 and 17 school reform hearings, or that the same superrich people who had pumped thousands of dollars into some of their campaign war chests had also bankrolled "Stand for Children" to the tune of more than $3 million. "Stand" was an overnight sensation for some Illinois politicians, who also tried to ignore groups that had been working for decades to make Illinois public schools better.
Groups and individuals with decades of experience in working on public school reform issues in Chicago — from the Kenwood Oakland Community Organization (KOCO) and Parents United for Responsible Education (PURE) to Access Living (which lobbies on behalf of children with disabilities in the public schools — were told by the "School Reform" committee chairmen (Aurora's Linda Chapa La Via, a Democrat, and Roger Eddy, a downstate Republican) that they were not really "school reform" groups, and that they would have to testify as "miscellaneous" organizations. But community groups and the teachers' unions didn't back down, and by the week before Christmas, Stand for Children's juggernaut pushing "Performance Counts" had gone off the rails of the lame duck session of the Illinois General Assembly.
Even some of the legislators that Chicago's billionaires had thought they had bought and bagged with their Stand for Children millions of dollars balked at pushing the Stand for Children "Performance Counts" legislation, and the bill was pushed into the 2011 session of the Illinois General Assembly, where it is now being debated, fiercely.
Whether "Performance Counts" gets to be a done deal, as Stand for Children's Jonah Edelman believed it was in December 2010, still remains to be seen. But more than a month before Madison Wisconsin became a symbol of the fight back of unions, teachers, and working people against the coordinated right wing agenda now visible nationally, Illinois teachers and Chicago parents and community leaders had stalled the onslaught of Billionaires' Bills, at least for a time in Illinois.
And while the debate still rages in Springfield (and is about to be launched locally in Chicago when the billionaires' candidate Rahm Emanuel becomes mayor next month and unveils the same agenda his counterpart Scott Walker is pushing in Wisconsin), it's time to take a close look at the dollars behind the fictional claims or groups like Stand for Children and Advance Illinois...
According to the State of Illinois records, Stand for Children received the following donations from the following individuals between September 2010 and December 31, 2010, when such large donations became illegal. The amounts, as reported to the State of Illinois (the D-2 annual reports) are as follows (in alphabetical order):
-- Brody, Kenneth (Manager, DRW Trading Group). $100,000 (on December 23, 2010).
-- Canning, John (Chairman, Dearborn Partners). $250,000 (on December 8, 2010).
-- Crown, Arie (Partner, Henry Crown & Co.). $100,000 on December 29, 2010.
-- Crown, Elizabeth (Homemaker). $50,000 on December 10, 2010.
-- Crown, James (President, Henry Crown and Company). $150,000 on December 10, 2010.
-- Crown, James (President, Henry Crown and Company). $50,000 on September 27, 2010.
-- Crown, Nancy (Homemaker, self employed). $100,000 on December 29, 2010.
-- Crown, Patricia (Psychotherapist, Self Employed). $50,000 on December 29, 2010.
-- Finnegan, Paul (Co-CEO, Madison Dearborn Partners, LLC). $200,000 on September 29, 2010.
-- Finnegan, Paul (Co-CEO, Madison Dearborn Partners, LLC). $300,000 on December 2, 2010.
-- Griffin, Kenneth (Founder, CEO, Citadel Group). $500,000 on December 15, 2010.
-- Hulsizer, Matthew (Co-Founder, CEO, PEAK6 Investments). $374,000 on December 8, 2010.
-- Hulsizer, Matthew (Co-Founder, CEO, PEAK6 Investments). $100,000 on September 27, 2010.
-- Merrick Ventures LLC (No individual listed). $100,000 on December 9, 2010.
-- Pritzker, Margot (Homemaker, Self Employed). $50,000 on December 29, 2010.
-- Pritzker, Penny (Chairman and CEO, Pritzker Realy Group). $50,000 on December 29, 2010.
-- Pritzker, Thomas (Chairman & CEO, Hyatt Hotels Corporation). $50,000 on December 29, 2010.
-- Pritzker - Pucker, Gigi (CEO, Odd Lot Entertainment). $50,000 on December 29, 2010.
-- Pucker, Michael (Attorney, Latham & Watkins LLP), $50,000 on December 29, 2010.
-- Ruhana, George (Partner/CEO, Options House LLC). $26,000 on September 27, 2010.
-- Saltzman, Bettylu (Homemaker). $1,000 on November 1, 2010.
-- Simmons, Brian (Partner, Code Hennessy & Simmons LLC). $100,000 on December 30, 2010.
-- Smith, Leo (Teacher, Perspectives/ITT Math & Science Academy). $25,000 on October 12, 2010.
-- Stand for Children, Inc. (Portland, OR). $210,000 on October 6, 2010.
-- Stand for Children, Inc. (Portland, OR). $50,000 on October 7, 2010.
-- Traubert, Bryan (Opthamologist, Eye Physicians of Chicago). $50,000 on December 29, 2010.
-- Wilson, Donald (CEO, DRW Trading Group). $250,000 on December 22, 2010.
-- Zell, Samuel (Chairman, Equity Group Investments). $100,000 on December 20, 2010.