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Unmasking Dark Money Behind Charter School Ballot Question14:31
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A sign promoting a ballot question to eliminate the cap on charter schools is seen outside a polling station in Dudley Square in Boston, Tuesday, Nov. 8, 2016. (Michael Dwyer/AP)MoreCloseclosemore
A sign promoting a ballot question to eliminate the cap on charter schools is seen outside a polling station in Dudley Square in Boston, Tuesday, Nov. 8, 2016. (Michael Dwyer/AP)

Let's talk about dark money in Massachusetts politics. It's still pretty dark in places, but there's the occasional ray of light. Take the news from earlier this week, that the state's office of Campaign and Political Finance levied its largest ever penalty — more than $425,000 — on a dark-money organization that was a massive player in last year's battle over ballot Question 2, the proposal to raise the charter school cap in the state.

Question 2 was the most expensive ballot question in state history. More than $40 million spent by both sides. Nineteen million of that came from Families for Excellent Schools - Advocacy, a group connected to the New York based pro-charter Families for Excellent Schools.

Turns out, Families for Excellent Schools - Advocacy, or FESA, was required to disclose its donors. It did not. The state's campaign finance watchdog has forced that disclosure. We now know that about $15 million of those funds came from approximately 40 individuals: including Amos Hostetter, the former cable television businessman from Boston; Seth Klarman, chief executive of the Baupost Group; other hedge fund executives; and Paul Sagan, chair of the state's Board of Elementary and Secondary Education.

We did reach out for an interview with Families for Excellent Schools. We received this statement from CEO Jeremiah Kittredge, "Though we believe we complied with all laws and regulations during the campaign, we worked closely with OCPF to resolve this matter so we could move forward with our mission of working alongside families desperate for better schools."

Guest

Michael Sullivan, director of the Massachusetts Office of Campaign and Political Finance, which tweets @OCPFReports.

This segment aired on September 15, 2017.

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