OF THE POISONED TREE
Hard Right's Plan to Capture Newark NJ
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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
of schooling would produce a new, highly active and profitable industry."
- Milton Friedman
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.
Booker 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 Black Leaders.
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, nationally.
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.
Booker 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.
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.
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 are perishing."
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.
The 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.
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.
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 the kids.
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).
couldn't join. But Booker became a member of the board.
It 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.
The 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.
Parker 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."
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.)
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
paradigm," he told the troglodytes, "was an entitlement
program, in which large big city mayors controlled race-based machines.
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."
In 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
Of course, Black
collaborators are entitled to all the money necessary to create an
alternative political movement out of whole cloth.
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
The 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.
We 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 hustle.
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.
By 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.
Booker 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
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 school reform."
word "reform" means "privatization" in Right-speak.
schools," in Fuller's lexicon, are private schools.
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.
The 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."
But the sheer
size and cost of the propaganda frenzy belied its origins. This was
no Black, grassroots movement, but an extravagantly funded, right-wing
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 Booker's colleagues:
- Ms. 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.
She 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
- Former 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" them.
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.)
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,
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.
A 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 fiasco.
- Dr. 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.
- Mr. 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.
There 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.
is wallowing in the funkiest corner of the political barnyard.
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.
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.
It 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.
Perhaps 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!
If 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
The 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.
Just 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 bills.
The 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 school-choice programs."
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.
We already know
who fertilizes these brilliant ideas, designed for the sole purpose
of producing a bounteous harvest for the rich.
George 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.)
As 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 students
violating students' right to religious freedom by actively discouraging
parents from opting their children out of religious activities."
Most of the schools
involved in the Milwaukee program are Catholic.
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.)
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
Cory 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.
George 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.
The 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
Much 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.
Now 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.
Booker 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