DeVos, Koch, Scaife, Walton, ALEC, AFC: The Corporate Royalists and Right-Wing Groups Propelling the GOP's Assault on the Middle Class
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While you are not likely to have heard of Betsy DeVos, chances are she and her deep-pocket cohorts are behind efforts to privatize schools right where you live. By running money through their maze of shell organizations, they keep their own identities secret. Voters in the six states that got cash last year from the Indiana PAC, for example, might see that a group with the sweet-sounding name of the American Federation for Children is running campaign ads and funding candidates in their area--but there's no disclosure that Amway, Walmart, a trio of poker-guided speculators, and a charter school profiteer are the real source of the effort to undermine their public school system
In campaign after campaign, the 'local' demand for privatization turns out to be little more than AFC money creating the illusion of grassroots support (in fact, the steady infusion of millions of dollars from DeVos, the Waltons, et al. is often the only thing propping up many of the so-called 'school choice' organizations at the local, state, and national levels). AFC will gush money into state initiatives, legislative lobbying campaigns, and political races, especially in the crucial couple of weeks before a vote. The money buys glossy (and often nastily negative) media, creating the impression that there's a groundswell for taking public schools private. "Flooding the zone" is the phrase that AFC's cynical political operatives use to describe this astroturf tactic. Polls consistently show strong public opposition to using tax dollars to fund private and parochial schools, but a little thing like that doesn't deter DeVos and her tiny band of rich ideologues. Through their stealth campaigns, they have helped elect governors who are on board their corporatization crusade. In April, for example, Gov. Mitch Daniels rammed a sweeping, DeVos-backed voucher bill into law. This radical movement is out to eradicate public education (one group funded by DeVos, Koch, and company even calls itself the Alliance for the Separation of School and State, proudly proclaiming that it supports "ending gov- ernment involvement in education").
The vast majority of America's 310 million people adamantly supports public education, but DeVos intends to overwhelm those millions with her millions of dollars, strategically using untraceable money to pervert public policy to her will, one campaign at a time. Last year she launched the AFC Action Fund to focus on state legislative races across the country, with the intention of surreptitiously stacking legislatures with school privatizers.
"With nearly 2,000 members" explains a brochure of this secretive organization, "ALEC is the nation's largest nonpartisan, individual membership association of state legislators." Maybe your very own local lawmaker is one of them--but you won't get that information from ALEC, which hides its list of legislators from public view.
Nonpartisan? Its website lists 22 legislators from around the country who serve as board members and officers of this tax-exempt legislative service organization. All are Republican. In fact, only token numbers of Democrats are allowed in the club, and all inductees are individually vetted to make sure they will adhere to ALEC's corporate dogma.
Which brings us to the organization's pose as an association of legislators. The "exchange" in ALEC's name is not between lawmakers, but between lawmakers and such behind-the-scenes powers as Altria, AT&T, Bayer, Coca-Cola, ExxonMobil, GlaxoSmithKline, Intuit, Johnson & Johnson, Koch Industries, Kraft Foods, Peabody Energy, Pfizer, Reynolds American, State Farm Insurance, UPS, and Walmart. These giants form ALEC's "private enterprise board," and they are among the self-interested corporations that put up its money and shape its agenda.
State reps pay only a token $50 a year to be members of ALEC, while at least 82 percent of the $6 million yearly budget comes from corporations (ALEC demurely refuses to name its donors, much less report how much each gives, nor will it disclose how it spends the money).