"It’s almost like a parallel government structure has been created."
September 19, 2015 11:31 PM Subscribe
Who's Funding Kevin Johnson's Secret Government? — Deadspin's detailed report on a developing scandal involving Sacramento, California mayor and former NBA star Kevin Johnson's alleged misuse of the power of his office to benefit for-profit charter schools.
Johnson is husband to Michelle Rhee, the controversial school-privatization activist, and there is considerable evidence that their shared desire to turn public schools into engines of profit for private actors is what has driven much, if not most, of Johnson's more recent wrongdoing. Despite, or perhaps because of, this, he's enjoyed the profile and appointments of a national figure on the make: public appearances with President Barack Obama, portrayal as a latter-day Metternich by The New York Times, and the patronage of serious players like Michael Bloomberg and Bill Gates.
A new scandal, though, is putting Johnson's rise at serious risk. It involves the mayor replacing civil servants with private citizens funded by the Wal-Mart empire and tasked with the twin purposes of working to abolish public education and bring in piles of cash for Kevin Johnson.
The rising star, it seems, set up a fake government-and some people are starting to notice.
Ballard Spahr's filing also, though, exposes a bizarre and secretive aspect of Johnson's administration: Lots of folks who used Sacramento city government titles and worked out of City Hall while doing Johnson's dirty work in the NCBM fiasco were in fact not employed by the city government. They were instead charter school advocates, funded by charter school ideologues, who kept their true allegiances and mission hidden.
With private operatives working out of City Hall and masquerading as public employees, the question is who's bankrolling them-and the rest of the mayor's off-the-reservation missions. It's not hard to answer. Consider that since his 2008 election, Johnson has requested and received millions of dollars for Stand Up, the group that employed the fake civil servants, from the Walton Family Foundation, a conservative grant-giver backed by the founders of Wal-Mart and known for being hell-bent on spreading its pro-charter school gospel. Between 2012 and 2014, while he was planning and executing his NCBM coup, Johnson reported at least six grants from that foundation totaling $1.625 million.
And that's just the Wal-Mart money the public knows about...
In early 2013, members of Johnson's "education team," made up of both real mayoral staffers and phonily-titled Stand Up employees, received published guidelines on how to raise more money for the non-profit. Johnson's minions were told to be sure to arrange meetings between foundation heads and "MKJ & MR"-meaning Mayor Kevin Johnson and Michelle Rhee-in hopes of bringing in more grants. Johnson put the Wal-Mart money to work. A document outlining the agenda for a meeting of his education team held at City Hall in February 2013 highlights discussion of the "national mobilization" of Stand Up and the targeting of the "National Conference of Black Legislators." No non-profit or foundation with that exact name exists as far as we can tell, but it's likely no coincidence that just weeks after that meeting, Johnson unveiled the battle plan for his takeover of the National Conference of Black Mayors, in the form of a PowerPoint titled "National Meeting `Coup.'"
What’s now becoming clear is the way various Johnson scandals connect and feed off of one other. In one theory of the case, the mayor’s function as an operative of Wal-Mart and other moneyed players seeking to use the idea of school reform as a way to turn public education into private, for-profit enterprise led to the NCBM coup, which led to the SN&R’s public-records requests, which led to Johnson suing the newspaper and the city in an attempt to cover up his dealings.
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