The Seattle Times reports that I-884, a ballot initiative to raise the state sales tax by 1¢ / $1.00 in order to boost education spending, is leading all other ballot initiatives in campaign funds raised. 44% of the campaign's war chest is from a single individual:
An Amazon.com founding investor, Nick Hanauer, has given $185,000 to the committee. ... "I have shouldered a big part of this effort," Hanauer said. "But I'm happy and proud to have been able to do it. It's a great project."$185,000 is an astonishing amount of money for any individual to contribute to any single political campaign. One can only wonder why Nick Hanauer was so happy and proud to contribute so much to this great project. Perhaps he's simply engaging in what he believes is good citizenship and philanthropy. On the other hand, Nick Hanauer is also a director (and presumably an investor) in a privately held company called TeachFirst, which develops training programs for public school teachers. If passed, I-884 will increase spending on ... training public school teachers. The ballot language specifically mentions some of the types of training offered by TeachFirst.
I don't know whether or not there is a direct connection between Hanauer's involvement in TeachFirst and his political activism on public education issues. But I do know that if I were a TeachFirst salesman I would work into any sales call on any Washington school district a mention of TeachFirst Director Nick Hanauer and his selfless support for I-884.
One would hope that the local media would at least mention Hanauer's stake in TeachFirst and explore this connection as it relates to I-884. But neither the Times or the P-I has done so to date. Hanauer was also recently interviewed on a local public access cable program [3/29/04] (by another board member of the League of Education Voters, which launched I-884). The interview touches on Hanauer's public education political activism as well as his extensive business experiences and how the two worlds relate to one another. It would have been natural for the interviewer to ask about TeachFirst, but the question never came up.
Of course, when a ballot initiative seeks to lower taxes, its campaign funders' business interests are reported on the front page. Anybody care to predict when the TeachFirst / I-884 connection will first appear in the newspapers? Please, no wagering.
[N.B. You can look up WA campaign spending on the web, here]Posted by Stefan Sharkansky at June 22, 2004 05:47 PM