I have never met Howard Rich. And I expect that if I ever did – say, at a party or a backyard cook out — I’d probably think he was ‘a nice guy’. No doubt he loves his children and grandchildren and he is probably nice to dogs, too.
That said, what Howard Rich is trying to do to the school children of our state is pure evil – it’s bad, wrong and politically corrupt.
He is using political campaign contributions as little more than legal bribes to get politicians to let him use our children like laboratory mice in his radial social experiment. And it all goes by the innocuous name of ‘private school vouchers.’
First a little background. Howard Rich is a wealthy New York real estate mogul that uses his vast wealth to fund his radical social agenda. A couple of his ideas, like term limits, make sense – but most of his agenda is pretty extreme stuff. Over the years, he and his huge coordinated network of wealthy friends have given tens of millions of dollars to fund political campaigns, and secretly funded political organizations to push their radical ideas here in South Carolina. For details, just look up Howard Rich on Wikipedia, or Google ‘Howard Rich South Carolina’. It’s all there.
So what did we in South Carolina do to deserve Rich and his modern day carpetbaggers descending on our state? Thank Mark Sanford. When he was a congressman, he hooked up with Rich and some of his friends to push their agenda in Washington. Later, when Sanford ran for governor, they supported him in a big way, and once he was elected, private school vouchers became their shared focus. Sanford pushed the idea, and Rich funded a number of new political organizations that became, in effect, Sanford’s secret political slush funds.
The State newspaper described the relationship by saying that Rich found in Sanford ‘the perfect political partner.’
Said another way, for an uber-ambitious politician like Sanford, finding a rich national sugar daddy with lots of friends that will support his agenda/ambition – is the political equivalent of a junkie finding a truckload of cocaine.
The real idea behind private school vouchers is to take as much money as possible out of the public school system, such that it undermines any possibility of quality public schools, and thus a ‘free market’ is created for private schools. Rich and company say that somehow this free market will magically produce a better education for our kids.
Now the proponents won’t be this direct, and they use all sorts of nice-sounding language like ‘school choice’ and ‘put parents in change’….but the effect is the same. They are taking huge risks with our children’s future based on their radical, unproven ideas for social engineering.
And what of our children in the schools that grow ever poorer from lack of funding? Well, they just become lab mice in Rich’s radical social experiment.
Now, the really tragic part is that Rich’s scheme is working. He and his friends have shipped millions of dollars in campaign donations and secret funding to the SC Republican Party, its candidates, and such groups as the SC Club for Growth, South Carolinians for Responsible Government, Reform SC and others.
In the last election, for example, Nikki Haley was the Sanford/Rich candidate. Sanford buddy, Chad Waldorf, co-founder of the Sticky Fingers barbecue chain and now the Haley-appointed Chairman of the Board of Economic Advisors, directed an questionable $400,000 pro-Haley television ad buy from Reform SC, a Sanford/Rich supported group. A judge ordered the ads off the air, saying the group appeared to have improperly coordinated with Haley’s campaign. But, by the time the judge ruled, the money had already been spent and Haley got the primary boost she needed. The rest is history.
Of course, Rich and friends don’t just play at the top of the political food chain; they have spent massively on state house and senate candidates here in South Carolina, as well. And not just on Republicans, – a handful of Democrats have taken Rich’s money, too. These candidate contributions, all legal, come in clustered checks totaling from $1,000 to $20,000, sometimes much more. There have even been candidates that have received more than two-thirds of their total contributions from Rich and his friends.
Who are these scalawags and lackeys – just search ‘Howard Rich’ on The State newspaper web site. There they all are, all 49 people (out of 170 legislators) that have taken Rich’s money. And this list is only of money directly from Rich alone, and not his network of friends – and only in the last three.
So, what are we to do? In the old days, we knew what to do when carpetbaggers like Rich and his friends showed up and went to work with the help of local scalawags – like Sanford and the legislative lackeys that take their money.
Today, we like to use more civilized methods…and the best one is to simply vote them out of office.
A couple of years ago, a group I work with, the South Carolina New Democrats, did a ‘Name and Shame Tour’ around the state, talking about who took Rich’s money and asking them to give the money back. And a few did.
Maybe it’s time to crank up the tour bus again, and tell Howard Rich that our children are not his lab mice… and show we still know what to do with carpetbaggers and scalawags.