Wednesday, February 28, 2024

DeVos And Other Rich Carpetbaggers Target Texas

Back when she was throwing her weight around her home state of Michigan, a standard Betsy DeVos technique was to threaten uncooperative GOP officials with her willingness to throw her money behind a primary opponent. Now she's taking that technique to the national stage.

Last fall, DeVos's school choice advocacy group American Federation for Children announced the AFC Victory Fund, "a national Super PAC that will take AFC’s work of championing school choice and empowering parents to the next level."  The PAC's mission is to support candidates who will support the dismantling of public education, replacing it with a privatized, voucher-fed market version. 

Tommy Schultz is CEO of AFC these days; Schultz is a comms professional, a regular talking head, and, his bios specify, a Catholic. He promised at least $10 million to be invested in some aggressive campaigning. 
If you’re a candidate or lawmaker who opposes school choice and freedom in education – you’re a target. If you’re a champion for parents – we’ll be your shield.

It looks like one place they'll be drawing targets is Texas. After spending a year fruitlessly trying to convince members of his own party to back his voucher play, Greg Abbott has been clear that he is going to push hard to get more compliant GOP members elected

And boy does he have help.

AFC Victory Fund has its own Texas Committee, with $5 million and change cash on hand. Take a gander at their top contributors. 

Richard Uihlein tops the list with a cool million. Uihlein is an heir to the Schlitz beer fortune, and has pumped something like $200 million into right-wing support. He's anti-union (helped back the Janus lawsuit), has backed Tea Party and Trump, and were top contributors to MAGA christianist nationalist wingnut candidate Doug Mastriano in Pennsylvania (also backed Herschel Walker, Ron Johnson, and Louis Freakin' Gohmert). Also, Uihlein is from Illinois. Not Texas.

Right behind him we get Dick DeVos, Jeff Yass, and Richard and Elisabeth DeVos Jr., all at a cool half million each. They are also not from, or in, Texas. There's the Future of Education LLC, in existence for less than a year. It is at least sort of Texas related (Delaware, too). The one name I can find associated with them is Mackenzie Price, an edupreneur in Austin. But they managed to funnel some $1 million in  dark money to Glen Youngkin.

What has AFC Victory Find been doing with all this money? Well, so far, attack mailers in the districts of the targeted representatives.

Its latest mail piece portrays the incumbents in a “Wanted” poster, saying they are being sought for “working against schools, teachers, parents, and kids.” The mailer says they not only denied school vouchers but also “$4,000 pay raises for teachers” and “over $97 million in funding for our local schools.”

Sure. They denied those things in the sense that Abbott used them as hostages to his voucher dreams.

Funny story about those mailers. Apparently the first batch went out with AFC's Virginia address on them, so AFC has since rented some space in Dallas, presumably so they can look a little less like rich people from out of state trying to meddle with Texas politics. 

Also looking to pack the Texas legislature with voucher-friendly Republicans is the School Freedom Fund, a group operated by the Club for Growth. SFF is headed by David McIntosh. a former student of Antonin Scalia and a co-founder of the Federalist Society. The Club for Growth has gotten itself busy in voucher promotion before, teaming up with Betsy DeVos in 2021 for a national Choiciness tour. Their interest in choice tells us a lot about the movement, because Club for Growth really only has one focus-- they want taxation to go away. In other words, they represent the choicer wing that is in favor of free market education specifically because they do not want to pay to educate other peoples' children.

Two of their big funders? Jeff Yass and Richard Uihlein.

SFF paid for a media blitz to clobber Abbott's foes. 

Also, right wing christianist rich guy Tim Dunn has pumped a ton of money into the battle through his own group, Texans United for a Conservative Majority. I'll give Dunn this--he is at least an actual resident of Texas.

A whole nation of rich folks have made it their mission to help their rich governor buddy sell his unpopular policy, and they are willing to throw a whole lot of money at the problem. But one of the legislators under attack, Glenn Rogers, doesn't seem intimidated. I'll let this clip from the Texas Tribune have the last word:

Rogers said in a direct-to-camera video released Tuesday that he would not cow to the “out-of-state voucher lobby, which is pumping millions of dollars into Texas to kill public education.”

“I have something important to tell you: I can’t be bought, I can’t be bullied and I can’t be intimidated,” Rogers told voters. “I will only be your representative.”

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