Getting bored yet with all the glossy Anthony Villaraigosa commercials touting the utopia that will be California if only the former mayor of Los Angeles rises from the basement in the polls and becomes our next governor? Just a few weeks ago, Villaraigosa was languishing at 9% in the polls, having fallen behind the no-name Republicans in the race to see who would compete against Gavin Newsom in November. Now the airwaves in the Golden State are awash in all things Antonio all the time.
Well, as in everything political, the answer comes down to money. In this case, a small group of rich folks want to buy your next governor and are doing everything they can to resuscitate Villaraigosa’s dying campaign. As the San Francisco Chronicle recently reported:
Two billionaire charter school advocates stirred up California’s gubernatorial race by pouring a total of $8.5 million into an independent expenditure campaign supporting former Los Angeles Mayor Antonio Villaraigosa
Netflix CEO Reed Hastings pledged $7 million and Los Angeles real estate entrepreneur Eli Broad promised $1.5 million to an independent expenditure organization called Families and Teachers for Antonio Villaraigosa for Governor 2018, which is run by the California Charter Schools Association Advocates.
Not surprisingly this big money campaign is full of plenty of doublespeak as the “Families and Teachers for Antonio” group would more accurately be named “a handful of rich white guys for Villaraigosa because he hates teachers and wants to bust their unions like we do.” Indeed, the reality of the matter is that both of California’s teachers’ organizations support Gavin Newsom because he has pledged to work with them rather than join the billionaire boys club behind corporate education reform efforts and the unregulated spread of charter schools that will continue to drain funding from other public schools and, if left unchecked, ultimately undermine public education itself.
Indeed, a brand new report by In the Public Interest, “Breaking Point: The Cost of Charter Schools for Public School Districts”, documents how the unrestricted expansion of charter schools in San Diego has cost SD Unified $65.9 million and has done similar harm elsewhere in the state. That kind of “disruption” is precisely what the big money behind Villaraigosa wants in exchange for their rescue of his flagging campaign.
Whatever your opinion of education policy, one hopes that progressives would see the deeply disturbing implications of letting policy be driven by not just a lobby for private interests but by a tiny handful of oligarchs bent on hijacking California’s role as leader of the resistance and turning it over to forces more in line with an agenda that Betsy DeVos would love.
How sadly ironic it would be if while teachers in largely red states all over America are leading the charge by striking for more pay AND better school funding, California let a stealth campaign by billionaires turn our gubernatorial race between two Democrats in November into a proxy war. In this scenario, the Democratic frontrunner (most certainly Newsom) would face a Villaraigosa campaign supercharged by anti-union money seeking to determine the outcome in a state with a nearly unassailable Democratic advantage. This would give Republicans an opportunity to dictate the outcome and gain more influence in policy matters. It may very well happen—if Democratic voters don’t get wise.
Perhaps that’s why some big Trump donors also love Villaraigosa as the Los Cerritos News reports research done by the John Chiang campaign has uncovered that:
Villaraigosa has accepted almost $130,000 in contributions from separate Republican and pro-Trump supporters. Those include contributions from Susana Chandi, who contributed $500,000 to USA Business Freedom PAC, a pro-Trump super PAC, and NASCAR CEO Brian France, who endorsed Donald Trump for president. Villaraigosa has also accepted contributions from pro-charter Republican Walmart heiress Carrie Penner and her husband Gregory Penner, Republican “power broker” Bert Boekmann, Republican oil investor Thomas Wachtell and his wife Esther Wachtell, and Republican CEO Bernard Klepach and his wife Juliette Klepach.
While the Chiang campaign is clearly an interested party, there is no denying that Villaraigosa is not just the choice of the charter schools lobby but the choice of Trump loving Republican developers, CEO’s, Walmart heirs, and oil lobbyists. Along with this, Villaraigosa’s previous dealings with McLarty Associates, with their ties to both Trump and Russian oil interests, is also troubling.
So, before you purchase the shiny product being sold in the Villaraigosa commercials, consider who is selling it and what they hope to get for their investment in this particular Democrat.
In sum, buyer beware.