Evil Inc.: Howard Rich's Effort to Destroy Public Education in SC (it's going pretty well)
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For several years, a mystery has been playing out in SC politics.
Vouchers and tuition tax credits that would siphon tax revenues out of public schools are deeply unpopular. South Carolinians say they prefer expanded public school choice policies to tuition tax credits, by a 2-to 1 margin.
Yet every year, these privatization schemes gain more support in the Legislature. Last year, they passed in the House and came close in the Senate.
How can that be?
The answer involves a billionaire named Howard Rich. Don’t feel bad if you’ve never heard of him. He doesn’t live in Charleston, or Aiken, or Myrtle Beach. He's from NY.
Yet he has donated millions of dollars to SC candidates who go on to promote his radical schemes to privatize education.
Seats held by loyal opponents of vouchers and tax credits have flipped to supporters at the same time that Howard Rich’s money has flooded the state.
Howard Rich uses a shadowy network of ever-changing shell corporations to hide his donations and skirt campaign finance laws. Those laws limit individual contributions to $1000 for most races.
In this election cycle, Mr. Rich has given as much as $31,500 to a single candidate, with tens of thousands more funneled through party caucuses . So far, he has spent $333,640 on SC elections this year alone.
He frequently jacks spending up dramatically in the final week of a campaign to avoid detection. In 2010, he was the largest single donor to political candidates in SC.
Mr. Rich is not just a generous donor. He’s also the founder of the Center for Independent Thought, located at Rich’s address, and Americans for Limited Government, now in VA. Buying SC reports that several directors have signed public pledges saying: “I favor ending government involvement in education.”
That pledge is promoted by the “Alliance for the Separation of School and State”. Naturally, people sometimes find this pledge inconvenient later and ask to be removed. Archived copies of past pledges are available on the web.
SC Club for Growth is generously funded by Mr. Rich. It has been reported that several of its leaders have also signed that pledge. One executive director has been quoted as saying, “Public education is welfare.” She was also a member of SC's Education Oversight Committee.
Click here to see a complete list of Howard Rich's donations this year (so far). See who has taken money from people who literally want to shut down public education.
Their tuition tax-credit schemes would steer tax dollars to private schools that can reject any student at any time for any reason, and have no accountability to taxpayers. That’s just wrong.