Thursday, October 17, 2013

Michelle Rhee Wins U.S. Senate Seat in New Jersey

*Boon to hedge-fund investors *Back-pedaling from Common Core?
Well, not exactly Rhee herself on the way to Washington.
But in Cory Booker senator-elect from New Jersey (55 to 44 percent) we have a personality whose education policy has as a cornerstone the shuttering of public schools and the opening of privately run charter schools in their place; he is poised to exactly continue his echoing Michelle Rhee's line of what American schools need.

All of Booker's Wall Street hedge fund friends, recounted in this piece, must be high-fiving each other today.

For all the links on the issue of Booker's policies as mayor of Newark, New Jersey and his financial institution backers, read this post from July:
Cory Booker, Senate stand-in for Rhee / Update: Newark '12 contract came with strings attached to accountability to Facebook gift
an excerpt:

Booker has given a weak effort into supporting state senator Barbara Buono, Christie's Democratic challenger to the governor's office. Indeed, as [Jason] Farago notes, it is public knowledge that there is good will between Booker and economic conservatives of Democratic and Republican stripes: George Will spoke favorably of him in a column. Michelle Rhee, disgraced former chancellor of D.C. schools is one that Booker calls "a friend of mine." Akin to Rhee's test score scandals, news broke last fall that three Newark charter school officials breached test security.
 . . . .
Back in 2000 Cory Booker gave a speech at the economic libertarian Manhattan Institute, which the foundation published as "School Choice and Government Reform: Pillars of an Urban Renaissance." In the speech he declared his support for charter schools and public funds for religious and private schools (vouchers). As the Wall Street Journal reported in 2007, "In 1999 he helped found E3, a prominent education-reform group in New Jersey that pushes for charter schools and vouchers for inner-city communities." WSJ's glowing portrait of Booker was reprinted by E3, which stands for "Excellent Education for Everyone."

And so this kind of thinking has continued on his career as Newark mayor. He has clearly aligned himself with the dominant neo-liberal pro-corporate faction of the Democrats, now firmly in control of the Democratic Party. He privatized the sanitation department and attempted to do the same with the water department.
Mayor Booker also secured support for a teachers' 3-year contract that would include merit-based bonuses.
The local education reform handlers saluted the school system for this change.
Booker, with this merit based contract, curiously has the backing of Newark Teachers Union president Joseph Del Grasso, who just survived a challenge by a nine vote margin from a new democratic-minded dissident caucus, the Newark Education Workers (NEW) Caucus; yet the new caucus won a majority of 18 of 29 seats (Samantha Winslow at Labor Notes). Even Booker supporters are drawing parallels between Booker and mayor Rahm Emanuel of Chicago.
 . . . .

No wonder Congressman Pallone cited this as evidence that Booker is “too close to Wall Street.” Further evidence comes from Republic Report, which chronicles how cash in politics corrupts democracy, which detailed numerous rich relationships between Booker and his hedge-fund billionaire and other Wall Street friends ["Celebrity cash fueling Cory Booker's Senate dreams"], "Cory Booker's Political Career Guided by Top Wall St Donors to Romney's Super PAC," May 21, 2012.
Hedge-funder Lee Ainslie, who gave $100,000 to Mitt Romney's presidential bid, maxed out his donation to Booker. ("Booker’s Wall Street Fundraising Past – and Obama’s")
[Tiger Management LLC’s Julian] Robertson, the prominent Booker campaign supporter who helped finance a Newark Charter program on behalf of Booker, is a close ally to Mitt Romney.
Notable donors donating the maximum $10,400 to the Booker campaign: Michael Bloomberg, Ivanka Trump, Mark Zuckerberg.
Other donors giving the maximum $10,400 include Maria Cuomo Cole, the daughter of New York’s former governor and sister of the current governor; Wal-Mart billionaire Christy Walton and writer/producer Jeffrey Abrams.
Venture capitalist and Netscape founder Marc Andreessen and his wife, Laura Arrillaga-Andreessen, gave $10,400 each.
 And on the infamous associations go for Booker.

At least he has been back-pedaling --in the last month-- at least, from the Common Core.

Booker's lack-luster victory is remarkable. Truly his Republican opponent Steve Lonegan should have been an easier candidate to beat. Consider how seriously nutty the latter guy is. He takes his Common Core opposition to the length of invoking Hitler and Stalin for parallels.

Against him, Booker's margin of victory should have been greater. But that weak showing suggests that progressive voters sat home. This reflects the pattern across the nation: a Democrat moves right. Left leaning voters sit home, right-leaning voters recognition the real (right-leaning) thing in the Republican, hence Tea Party Lonegan's comparatively strong 44% showing.