It is perfectly lawful to donate to a political campaign, and with the Citizens United case decision from the Supreme Court a few years back, it is now lawful for corporations to donate money through political action committees (PACs) and Super PACs.
However, while it is lawful, it doesn’t mean that some interesting ethical questions occur.
When iStation secured its contract with DPI last summer amid some secretive circumstances and recently had its legal counsel send Cease & Desist letters to people questioning the process, three names came into focus.
- Richard H. Collins, CEO of iStation,
- Doug Miskew, lobbyist in NC hired by iStation, and
- Kieran Shanahan, legal counsel hired by iStation.
When DPI awarded iStation a contract over mClass, it seemed obvious that it was a unilateral decision on the part of the state superintendent, Mark Johnson. But for anyone who has followed North Carolina’s recent history in public education, it is apparent that Mark Johnson answers to the powers of the NC General Assembly led by Phil Berger who enable him. That’s why this blog and others do not really see Mark Johnson as the real leader of DPI.
In fact, the organizational chart for DPI now looks mostly like this.
If one was to investigate the political contributions of the three people above associated with iStation, then he would find this (from followthemoney.com)
Richard Collins is based in Texas and contributes a LOT of money to republicans across the nation. Above is a snapshot of his contributions to NC campaigns. There’s Phil Berger.
Kieran Shanahan has given well over $150,000K in this state, including to Phil Berger. It should also be noted that Shanahan is the NC Rep. Party Finance Chair.
Doug Miskew has given money as well, but not directly to Phil Berger’s campaigns – rather to Phil Berger Jr.’s campaigns. But that doesn’t mean he hasn’t given money for Phil Berger, Sr. to use to strengthen his cronies’ campaigns. He just does it through another channel.
In Feb. of 2017, Colin Campbell wrote a piece for the News & Observer that talked of a committee used by NC Senate republicans that was used to give money throughout the state to various campaigns.
Some people call it a “slushfund.”
Campbell started his article,
Republican N.C. Senate leaders raised and spent $2.2 million during the last election cycle through a new committee that bypassed the N.C. Republican Party, giving Senate leaders more say in campaign decisions.
The committee uses a 2015 law that allows groups of Republicans or Democrats in either the legislature or statewide elected positions to create fundraising committees that act like political parties, accepting and distributing unlimited donations for campaigns.
That fund is still going today. Millions of dollars passing through it. In fact, you can look for all of the documented contributions and expenditures required by law to be recorded here.
If one digs around enough, he can see who has contributed to this fund.
There’s Doug Miskew.
There’s James Goodnight. He founded SAS which is used heavily by DPI for EVAAS “calculations” and school performance grades.
There’s Jonathan Hage. He owns a chain of for-profit charter schools that have campuses in North Carolina.
Mark Johnson as the state’s highest public education official has given more control over student data to Goodnight’s SAS Corporation, catered more to for-profit charter schools run by people like Jonathan Hage, and awarded at least two contracts to companies lobbied for by Miskew, including iStation.
And Mark Johnson doesn’t really do anything unless Phil Berger affirms it, especially when it pertains to Read to Achieve.
And iStation is supposed to help with Read to Achieve.
You can draw your own conclusions.