Dark money PAC spends nearly $400,000 to promote school privatization
I’ve written before about Tennesseans for Student Success – a group with an innocuous sounding name that is actually a front for dark money issue advocacy and political shenanigans related to privatization of public schools.
I also reported that this dark money, pro-privatization group started a political action committee (PAC) called “Team Kid PAC” with a clear mission of influencing policy by electing candidates who support shifting public money to private schools.
It seems Team Kid is making a move – getting involved in state elections in the 2022 cycle.
According to disclosures filed with the Tennessee Registry of Election Finance, Team Kid has received $500,000 in contributions from Tennesseans for Student Success this summer.
Of course, they’re also spending.
The group has made contributions to the campaigns of Democratic Senators London Lamar and Raumesh Akbari as well as Republican Senators Jack Johnson, Bill Powers, and Shane Reeves.
Powers, some may recall, broke his campaign promise to oppose vouchers in his first vote as a new state Senator.
Other recipients of Team Kid cash include House Majority Leader William Lamberth, Rep. Chris Hurt, and House candidates Elaine Davis, Gabriel Fancher, Deanna McLaughlin, William Slater, Joseph Barrett, Gino Bulso, Michael Hale, Brock Martin, Jacob McCalmon. The group is also backing Senate candidate Adam Lowe.
Hale is challenging Republican and reliable anti-voucher vote Terri Lynn Weaver. Slater is running in a three-way race in Sumner County and his campaign focuses on his support for vouchers. He previously served as Head of School at Hendersonville Christian Academy.
A Clear Privatization Agenda
The candidates Team Kid is backing, then, demonstrate a clear privatization agenda.
In addition to the $1200 contributions to each of these candidates, the group is spending big on polling, phones, and advertisting.
In their most recently filed disclosure, Team Kid reports spending nearly $400,000 to influence today’s primary.
What does Team Kid – and their sole funder, Tennesseans for Student Success, want?
They want to shift public money to private schools by way of charters and vouchers and they want to help elect lawmakers who will advance this agenda.
Where does the money come from?
That’s a great question.
100% of the contributions indicated on Team Kid’s PAC disclosure are from Tennesseans for Student Success.
TSS is a nonprofit, so that means heading over to Guidestar to check out their IRS 990.
The most recent 990 available at Guidestar is from 2019 (contributions made in 2018). Here’s the thing: When it gets to the contribution element, it simply says “restricted.”
The group took in more than $2 million and there’s no information on who gave the money.
This is like doubling down on dark money. There’s a PAC with a disclosure form. The PAC discloses all of its funds come from a nonprofit. The nonprofit’s most recently available tax form contains information from four years ago. That information sheds exactly zero light on who is funding the group.
Tennesseans for Student Success also promotes a program called “Tristar Reads.” It’s a program that essentially promotes K-12 students reading over the summer.
Here’s some of the social media promotion they’ve done for it:
The group’s 2018 990 form shows they spent just over $4000 on Tristar Reads.
By contrast, they’ve spent $400,000 just this summer on electing candidates who plan to pilfer the public purse for the sake of privatization.
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