Thursday, September 27, 2007

Does Evergreen have members in Utah?

I will get back to my line-by-line reading of House Bill 148 shortly. But first, I continue to be amazed at the reach that this voucher referendum has across the nation. In my opinion, the explanation for this reach is money. As I've written, the history of money from Michigan to get a voucher plan adopted in Utah began several years ago, and now Utah -- especially radio and television stations -- are benefiting from a mighty river of money coming in from all over the country. At least the economy is getting some good from this issue. But I also think the money is drawing all sorts of opinion-writers. Why else would a man from Olympia, Washington, be published in today's Daily Herald?

And who is next? Opinion-writers from Toronto? Tijuana? Miami? Why not? There are still six weeks left until Election Day.

I'd never seen Ryan Harriman's name in the papers before, so I looked up his organization, the Evergreen Freedom Foundation. Its own website says a lot of nice things about it, which you might imagine. Wikipedia ( says it's a "private, non-profit public policy think tank, based in Olympia, Washington, founded by Bob Williams, a former state legislator." Its mission sounds good: "to advance individual liberty, free enterprise, and responsible government." But then you see something familiar, if you've been keeping up with who's been funding the voucher debate in Utah.

The Evergreen Freedom Foundation neither solicits nor accepts funds from public sources. All programs and activities are funded by private donations and grants. Its support comes from thousands of concerned individuals and numerous private foundations.

"Private donations and grants"? "Thousands of concerned individuals"? Maybe I've been reading too much, but it sounds a lot like Parents for Choice in Education. Which makes me wonder if the "thousands" is more like "tens" or "dozens."

There's more at the Center for Media and Democracy (

Evergreen Freedom Foundation's beginning mission was to try to curb the Washington Education Association's (WEA) use of dues for political purposes. Much of Evergreen Freedom Foundation's work -- and its subsequent expenses and its fundraising – is tied to legal complaints in the courts and in Washington state’s Public Disclosure Commission. Evergreen carries on an agenda driven by its president, former Republican state legislator Bob Williams – an unsuccessful gubernatorial and congressional candidate -- and executed by Evergreen’s staff of active Republican political operatives and insiders.

During Dino Rossi's failed attempt to gain the Washington State governorship through a court challenge to the recount process, Evergreen Freedom Foundation provided strong ideological support. They pushed a "Voter Integrity Project" which focused on requiring voter ID to prevent voter fraud and started a "Grassroots Washington" group to make this seem like a public agenda. Voter fraud was never alleged in the recount case and the case was dismissed with prejudice .

So there's another connection. Mr. Harriman's employer is used to doing battle with teachers, so it makes sense that Utah has gotten his attention. And there certainly has been a big effort to make the pro-voucher organization look like a "grassroots" organization just out to promote the "public agenda."

I just have to shake my head, really, knowing that what's going on up and down the Wasatch Front right now has gone on in so many other places and was imported.

The best (or worst?) information about Mr. Harriman's group comes from Media Transparency here (

POSTED FEBRUARY 15, 2002 --When is a think tank not a think tank? In the case of the Olympia, Washington based Evergreen Freedom Foundation (EFF), it’s when a group that purports to be public interest policy organization turns out to be a private interest law firm for a few contributors.

Evergreen, which enjoys 501 (c) (3) nonprofit tax status, claims in its literature and on its web site to be a "public policy research organization" – a local think tank claiming support from some 2,500 donors. On it tax returns, Evergreen describes its mission as "educational research and analysis." Newsletters and fundraising mail tout Evergreen’s advice to Washington state legislators on budget and tax issues, reducing growth management regulations, and privatizing public services, including schools. The tidy mission of a public policy group, however, is merely Evergreen’s public face.

In truth, Evergreen has built its revenue base and committed much of its expenses on a seven-year public relations and legal campaign to curb the Washington Education Association’s (WEA) use of dues for political purposes – the country’s most sustained and targeted "paycheck protection" campaign. Much of Evergreen’s work -- and its subsequent expenses and its fundraising – is tied to legal complaints in the courts and in Washington state’s Public Disclosure Commission.

When will this nasty business stop? When will these people leave Utah and go back to where they came from, and take their tactics with them?

The Washington Supreme Court ultimately discovered about the Evergreen Freedom Foundation what I and a lot of other folks have discovered about Parents for Choice in Education.

All the legal activity gave Washington State Supreme Court Justice Philip A. Talmadge reason to wonder why Evergreen spent such energy getting to the bottom of WEA’s finances – and why the public knows so little about who finances Evergreen’s activities. In a May 2000 opinion in a case initiated by Evergreen against WEA, he said:

"... We know nothing about the EFF. It chooses to utilize the courts for what may be a political agenda, and yet we know nothing regarding the individuals or organizations who make up the EFF or provide financial support to it. Perhaps a healthy dose of 'public disclosure' so vigorously sought by these organizations would be usefully applied to their own activities as well, so the public will know who supports and funds them when they purport to be acting in the public interest."

The response to Judge Talmadge’s musings? It does not come from Evergreen or from Evergreen President Bob Williams, who demurs when asked about donors and who notes that the identities of contributors are protected by non-profit laws. The truth is that almost half of Evergreen’s funding between 1996-1999 came from just 11 donors, who gave a total of $1,713,097. In 2000, just a dozen donors provided a full 52 percent of Evergreen’s money. Despite claims of 2,500 smaller donors supporting its work, the bulk of Evergreen’s work is being financed by large contributors; with many large gifts come from conservative foundations.

In fact, foundation tax records show that more than one-third of Evergreen’s support comes from out-of-state foundations -- most of them financed by advocates of anti-public education efforts, including school vouchers, or anti-labor activity including "paycheck protection." Several Evergreen contributors have strong ties to the State Policy Network, the national string of smaller think tanks that promote conservative agendas in their respective states. Evergreen is a SPN member and Evergreen President Bob Williams is on the SPN President’s Advisory Council.

While Evergreen receives a modest amount of foundation support from within the state – the conservative M.J. Murdock Charitable Trust appearing to be its largest Washington state foundation contributor – the list of out-of-state contributors to EFF reads like a "who’s who" in the national voucher and anti-labor movements. Foundation contributors include:

The Walton Family Foundation, run by heirs to the Wal-Mart fortune. The foundation, which takes many of its giving cues from national voucher advocate and "paycheck protection" contributor John Walton, gave Evergreen $300,000 from 1998 through 2000. Walton has been a generous supporter of voucher and tuition tax credit legislative, advocacy and political efforts: he gave more than $2 million alone to the failed 2000 Michigan voucher initiative.

The Indianapolis-based Milton and Rose Friedman, founded by leading national voucher advocate Milton Friedman – critical of teacher’s unions for blocking school "reforms" like vouchers. The Friedman foundation gave Evergreen a total of $250,000 in 1997 and 1999. Foundation board members include J. Patrick Rooney, another national voucher advocate who also co-chaired the failed California Proposition 226 "paycheck protection" campaign in 1998. The Friedman foundation counts on part of its revenues from other Evergreen financial supporters, including the Walton, Sarah Scaife and Jacquelin Hume foundations.

The Sarah Scaife Foundation in Pittsburgh, Pa., controlled by national conservative figure Richard M. Scaife. The foundation gave Evergreen $150,000 from 1998 through 2000. Scaife, a leader in the national conservative movement, contributed $50,000 to California’s Prop 226 campaign and supports local and national voucher efforts, as well as conservative legal, policy and advocacy groups.

The Lynde and Harry Bradley Foundation, a leading financial supporter of the Milwaukee voucher program and controversial contributor to far-right causes. The Bradley foundation gave Evergreen $105,000 from 1998 through 2000 – all three grants committed to the "Teachers Paycheck Protection Project initiative to prevent the Washington Education Association from using compulsory dues to support political causes." Projects backed by the foundation have included support for author Charles Murray for "The Bell Curve," the scientific racist book that claimed blacks are genetically intellectually inferior to other races.

The Roe Foundation, founded by the late Thomas Roe, a prominent Heritage Foundation supporter and co-founder of the State Policy Network. The Roe Foundation, which has directed millions to state-based think tanks aligned with the State Policy Network, gave Evergreen $85,000 from 1998 through 2000. Former SPN President Byron Lamm is on the Roe board, along with Heritage Foundation President Edwin Feulner.

Foundation for Partnerships Trust, funded and run by William Edgerly, CEO emeritus of State Street Bank and Trust of Boston. The foundation gave Evergreen a total of $70,000 in 1998 and 1999; at the time of the grant, Edgerly was chairman of Advantage Schools, a for-profit school operator run by former Pioneer Institute executive director Steve Wilson that clashed with the Massachusetts Education Association over operation of schools in the state. Edgerly is on the board of the Pioneer Institute, a Massachusetts member of the State Policy Network.

The Gilder Foundation, run by New York stockbroker Richard Gilder. The foundation, which supports conservative think tanks and voucher groups, gave Evergreen $25,000 in 1999. Richard Gilder has been on the board of advisers for the national voucher advocacy group CEO America, and pumped financial support into the unsuccessful Michigan voucher initiative and $25,000 in the 1998 "paycheck protection" initiative in California.

Jacquelin Hume Foundation of San Francisco, run by survivors of longtime California Reagan advisor Jacquelin Hume, including William Hume. The foundation gave Evergreen $23,995 in 1999, and supports conservative think tanks and advocacy groups, including anti-labor legal groups. In 2000, the Hume group contributed $110,000 to the Association of American Educators (AAE), a national group that markets itself as an alternative to teacher’s unions. One of Evergreen’s latest projects is promoting the AAE affiliate in Washington state as the "voice" for teachers in the state.

Mr. Harriman's organization sounds like a bigger carbon copy of PCE. So, given his agenda, and given who pays his salary, and given their previous targets, it's no wonder that Mr. Harriman attacked Utah teachers (and teachers from elsewhere who are supporting their Utah colleagues) -- and the parents, too, who support their children's teachers -- in his Daily Herald guest commentary. He saves the hardest part of his attack for the NEA, the national teachers organization, and he seems to be angry most because it and its members -- and the parents who support them -- have succeeded at blocking ideas like the Utah voucher plan in a lot of other places. He cites their successes in

...California... to oppose Proposition 38, which would have created vouchers.

...Michigan... in a successful campaign to oppose a voucher amendment.

...New Jersey... that expanded and solidified the anti-voucher effort in the state.

...Colorado... helped the state unions defeat three voucher bills...

...Wisconsin... to oppose legislation expanding charter schools, vouchers, tax credits, and other "choice schemes."

He might as well have written that everywhere that parents and educators have successfully worked together, they have defeated plans to give public money to private schools without holding those schools accountable for it. But that's not what he writes at all. He writes,

But isn't this supposed to be about the kids?

And it certainly is. It makes me wonder whether Mr. Harriman has ever enrolled his children in Utah's public schools. Since he lives in Olympia, Washington, I doubt it.

1 comment:

Oldenburg said...

Another great piece of in-depth investigation into these shadowy groups that are trying to foist vouchers upon us.