Question 2 Donations — For And Against — Top $41 Million

(Jericho/Wikimedia Commons)
(Jericho/Wikimedia Commons)

Money continued to flow through the campaigns for and against Question 2 up to the last days before the election, state data show. Since Nov. 2, groups supporting the question have received nearly $1.5 million, and the group opposing it has received $608,000.

The campaign is the most expensive on a ballot question in state history, with more than $41 million raised overall — and more than $38 million spent on TV ads, leaflets, signs, door-knocking and more.

Question 2 would allow 12 new or expanded charter schools a year. Throughout the campaign season, much of the money in support of it came from a range of out-of-state donors, including individual investors like Alice Walton and pro-charter groups like Families for Excellent Schools.

That pattern continued in recent days, notably with a $250,000 contribution from Michael Bloomberg on Nov. 3 and a total of about $3.6 million since Oct. 16 from Families for Excellent Schools — more than $1 million of that since Nov. 1. (The New York-based FES has given about $17.2 million to Great Schools Massachusetts alone since the campaign began.)

Sorting out contributions on the "Yes" side is complicated. Five different committees have raised money on this side, although one — "Yes on Two" — shut down Oct.5, after giving most of its money to another, Campaign for Fair Access to Quality Public Schools. Of the remaining groups, Great Schools Massachusetts has raised by far the most money on this side — more than $21 million as of Nov. 5 -- and has spent the most, too, nearly $20 million.

In its Nov. 5 report, filed at about 8 p.m. Monday to meet the Nov. 7 deadline for final pre-election reports, Great Schools reported contributions of nearly $3.5 million between Oct. 15 and Nov. 1, and said it has spent more than $4.7 million in that time, mostly on advertising and "field services." One of the largest single donations, $250,000, came from the similarly named Great Schools for Massachusetts, a separate group that is not required to disclose the names of its contributors — just one of the so-called "dark money" contributors that have fueled controversy in this race. An additional $200,000 came from another such group, Strong Economy for Growth.

Meanwhile, yet another pro-charter ballot committee, Expanding Educational Opportunities, said in its Nov. 5 report that it has just $100 left in its account — because it gave the rest, $24,785, to Great Schools Massachusetts. In fact, all of the nearly $575,000 that Expanding Educational Opportunities has spent in the campaign, except for small unitemized expenses, has gone to Great Schools. It raised that money from just seven donors: MassMutual Financial Group, Suffolk Cares, State Street Bank and Trust, EMC, Vertex Pharmaceuticals, Partners Healthcare and The Kraft Group.

The newest group to report contributions on the "Yes" side, the Advancing Obama's Legacy on Charter Schools Ballot Committee, failed to file its report due Nov. 7 by the deadline.

Sometime early on the morning of Nov. 8, it filed a report that was initially labeled "Oct. 5 report," then renamed by 10:15 a.m as the Nov. 5 report. (The group did not file an Oct. 5 report because it did not start reporting until Oct. 17. Interestingly, that initial report lists its start date as Nov. 4, 2014.) The expenditures listed on the new report of $533,232.50 appear to be mostly for a "phone bank program" and for the group's flier that caused controversy because it appeared to imply that President Obama had endorsed Question 2; he has not.

Advancing Obama's Legacy used Aaron, Thomas Associates, a California company that describes itself as "the industry leader" in political direct mail, and Amplified Strategies, a similar Seattle-based company, to produce its printed materials. It paid $178,500 in postage to the U.S. postmaster in Santa Clarita, California.

All of Advancing Obama's Legacy's $722,040 in contributions (except an "unitemized receipt" of $40) come from two groups: Education Reform Now Advocacy, a New York-based charter advocate, and Campaign for Fair Access — the same group that received about $700,000 from Yes on Two. One of the Education Reform gifts, of $150,000, was reported Nov. 2, the day after the end of the reporting period for the Nov. 5 report.

The Campaign for Fair Access, meanwhile, listed expenditures totaling $1.2 million in its Nov. 5 report. It reports two contributions to the Obama's Legacy committee: the $200,000 listed in that group's filings, and another $367,000, dated Oct. 18 — the day after the Obama's Legacy committee filed its first report, after the close of the reporting period for the Oct. 20 report (which Advancing Obama's Legacy still has not filed) and before the Oct. 22 start of the "late contributions" reporting requirement, when Obama's Legacy would have had to report it within 72 hours. Fair Access' other expenditures were mostly for canvassing, consulting, printing and postage.

On the "No on 2" side, the picture is simpler. All the money went to one group, Save Our Public Schools, and nearly all of it came from teachers' unions, both local and national. As of Monday, the group had reported a total of $16,812,946.16 in contributions and $20,389,558.28 in expenditures. Of those contributions, $2,256,145 was newly listed in the group's Nov. 5 report. More than two-thirds of that money, a donation of nearly $1.6 million, came from the Massachusetts Teachers Association.

Updated to include information on the Advancing Obama's Legacy on Charter Schools Ballot Committee, which filed its required Nov. 7 report after the state deadline, and to include totals of contributions since Nov. 2.

This article was originally published on November 07, 2016.


Louise Kennedy Contributor
Louise Kennedy previously worked with The ARTery and as editor of Edify.



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