In any election year, who is giving money (and how much) tells a story. This election year is no different.
As a start to seeing that story among DC education leaders and elected officials, I focused on donations to David Grosso of $100 or more, recorded by the DC Office of Campaign Finance from October 2015 through March 10, 2016. Grosso is running for re-election as an at large councilmember and is chair of the council’s education committee.
Plenty of people associated with charter schools or educational reform have given recently to elected officials in DC. In that, Grosso was no exception (although he also had plenty of developers and commercial real estate interests; restaurant interests; people associated with health care and pharmaceutical products; pot advocates; and people related to him also contributing to his campaign).
Between October 2015 and March 10, 2016, the chair of the council’s education committee received donations of $100 and up from 298 donors, including businesses, corporations, and individuals. No labor groups contributed at all to Grosso’s campaign in that period.
(NB: As far as I could see, the Washington Teachers’ Union has had only two direct and recent donations to DC politicians: $1500 to Paul Zukerberg for attorney general in October 2014 and $500 to Renee Bowser in March 2015; both lost their elections.)
Of the money donated to Grosso between October 2015 and March 10, 2016 (amounting to at least $70,000 in the $100 donor and up class), more than $20,000 came from charter school proponents or people with connections to charter schools.
(By comparison, in that same time period in that same donor class for Grosso, I was able to find only one signer of this recent petition to immediately prioritize modernization of all DCPS schools (Ivan Frishberg, $200)–and no signers of this petition to investigate the DCPS food services contracting process. Both petitions were delivered to the council, with the former specifically addressed to Grosso.)
Here is a list of people associated with one DC charter school, Carlos Rosario, who donated to Grosso on just one day, January 20, 2016:
Hector Torres, board member, $150
Julio Haddock, spouse of Hector, $150
Asclepiades Velasquez, donor, $100
Gustavo Viteri, chief technology officer, $150
Sheryl Sherwin, teacher, $100
Allison Kokkoros, executive director (also board member of DC Association of Chartered Public Schools, which is bringing a lawsuit against DC for inequitable treatment of charter schools), $250
Alberto Gomez, board member, $250
Jim Moore, board member, $100
Ryan Monroe, chief academic officer, $100
Patricio Sanchez, accountability director, $100
Francisco Ferrufino, board member, $100
That same day—January 20, 2016—other people indirectly associated with the Carlos Rosario charter school also donated to Grosso’s campaign:
Christie McKay, executive director of Briya charter school and director of education for Mary’s Center, which is associated with Carlos Rosario, $100
Carmen Ramirez, former director of health programs at Carlos Rosario, $250
Patricia Bravo, gave money to Mary’s Center and is chief development officer of the Latin American Youth Center, $100
Nicole Hanrahan, executive director of the Latin American Youth Center and associated with LAYC charter school, $100
Sonia Gutierrez, Carlos Rosario founder (earned $328,000 in 2013 from the school, per a Post analysis), $250
Maria Gomez, executive director of Mary’s House, which has association with Briya public charter school; was on a panel at Carlos Rosario, $250
Jorge Delgado, former Carlos Rosario principal, $100
Shinberg Levinas, architectural firm that has donated to Carlos Rosario and that worked on Carlos Rosario’s newest campus, $100
The total donation that these two groups represent—$2800—was clearly a result of efforts at the school to garner financial support for the chair of the council’s education committee.
On other dates, I found more donors to Grosso’s campaign who have some connection to Carlos Rosario:
Julie Meyer, director of Next Step charter school closely related to the Latin American Youth Center, 1/18/16, $250
Gustavo Viteri, chief technology officer, 11/30/15, $100
Julio Haddock, spouse of board member, 11/30/15, $350
Beacon Hotel (what board member Hector Torres is associated with professionally), 11/30/15, $400
Hector Torres, board member, 11/30/15, $250
Lori Kaplan, president, Latin American Youth Center, which runs the charter school LAYC academy: 11/24/15, $250 and 12/23/15, $500
Patricia Sosa, board chair at Carlos Rosario, 12/7/16, $100
Sean Carroll, Latin American Youth Center board member, 10/16/15, $1000
Anna Cabanes-Domenech, wife of Sean Carroll, 12/23/15, $1000
This bunch totals $4200. Added to the amount donated from Carlos Rosario supporters on January 20, the total just for associated interests of Carlos Rosario comes to $7000.
I found no other similar bundling by any one school in Grosso’s campaign funds.
That said, in that same timeframe (October 2015 through March 10, 2916), Grosso received contributions of $100 and up from a number of charter school and education advocates, including former DME staffer Ahnna Smith ($200); founder and head of the Flamboyan Foundation and founder of DC School Reform Now (both supporters of charter schools) Kristin Ehrgood ($1000); Democrats for Education Reform DC chapter head Catharine Bellinger ($200); Edward Hayes, attorney with Imagine Schools, Inc., a charter chain based in Virginia ($100); HyeSook Chung, who is associated with the AppleTree charter incubator and is the executive director of DC Action for Children ($1000); Kilian Boardman-Schroyer, who works for OSSE and Raise DC ($100); Marc Miller, a founding board member for SEED charter school ($200); Norman Glasgow, a Potomac, MD, lawyer who was a trustee for the CityBridge Foundation and the Federal City Council, which pushed for mayoral control and charter schools ($500); Suzanne Laporte, a Chevy Chase, MD resident who has helped place charter board members ($200); Kenneth Simonson and Jan Solomon, husband and wife and former US Department of Education staffer (Jan) ($400).
In addition, Brett Greene, [5/21/16: correction who was] on the board of directors of FOCUS, a local charter advocacy organization, donated $1000 to Davis Grosso’s campaign on January 31, 2016. (This election cycle, Greene also donated $500 to Yvette Alexander’s campaign for her Ward 7 council seat and $1000 to Vince Orange, running for his at large council seat, and $250 to LaRuby May, for her efforts to hold on to her Ward 8 council seat. May chaired the board of a DC charter school, Community Prep. Alexander sits on the council’s education committee.)
The total I get for that bunch of education-related donations to Grosso is about $5000.
In addition, there were the related donations—from the same address–of Charles Shaffer, a policy director for the council education committee, and Michael Rabb, a manager of client relations at Hobson’s, an educational consulting firm. Together, Shaffer and Raab donated more than $1000 to Grosso’s current campaign over a series of donations in that October-March 10th timeframe.
And in that same time there was also $3500 that came to Grosso’s campaign from a combination of Arent Fox, its associate Jon Bouker, and his wife Kerrie Bouker, along with another Arent Fox associate, Richard Newman. Arent Fox is a law firm that, among other things, represents charter schools in development and financing of their facilities; Jon Bouker has represented charter school financing before the city council and mayor.
Together, those donations amount to at least $4500.
And there was Grosso’s very lucrative day of December 11th, 2015, which is when developer Herbert Miller and his wife donated $1000 to Grosso’s campaign as did the influential law firm of Manatt, Phelps & Phillips.
Although I could not find their connection to schools or education in DC or elsewhere (and thus did not count their donations in my total for Grosso), on that same day Grosso also received more than $3500 in donations from staffers at TenSquare, which provides charter school “turnaround” services and works with charter schools on facilities. Donations on that day from TenSquare staffers included Katherine Herman (former secretary and trustee of Thurgood Marshall Academy charter school; $1000); Kathleen Padian ($250); Karl Jentoft (on board of FOCUS and has ties to Raise DC; $1000); Joshua Kern (owner of TenSquare and founder of Thurgood Marshall Academy charter school; $1000); and Gerald Levine ($500). On that same day, TenSquare itself donated $1000 additionally; the company is part of a May 31 summit sponsored by FOCUS on charter school facilities in DC.
Adding the TenSquare donations ($4500) together with the other totals, I get at least $20,000 in contributions to David Grosso from October 2015 through March 10, 2016 from contributors with either a direct connection to charter schools or charter advocacy or who benefit monetarily from charter school business.
Finally, there was the $1000 to Grosso’s campaign from F. Camalier on February 16, 2016. As far as I can see, Camalier is a real estate developer and, I thought, had no connection to schools or education in DC.
I was wrong: turns out, Floyd Davis Camalier gave $250 to the independent expenditure committee (i.e., PAC) of the DC chapter of Democrats for Education Reform on March 3, 2016 and also gifted Jack Evans with $500 in October 2015 (part of thousands in Camalier donations to Evans in the last few years).
Clearly, many missing pieces in this puzzle remain to be found. Stay tuned for more.