HEDGEPAPER NO. 62: DAN MCKEE AND THE RIGHT-WING BILLIONAIRES WHO BACK HIM

Dan McKee

Dan McKee has made some very powerful and very wealthy friends.  It’s worked out well for him — but not so great for regular families in Rhode Island. 

As the former Mayor of Cumberland and current Lieutenant Governor, McKee has pushed policies that have undermined Rhode Island’s public schools and thrown into question his commitment to holding accountable those who profited from the opioid crisis.  

McKee’s biggest campaign backers include the Walton family, heirs to the Wal-Mart fortune and patrons of the Betsy DeVos education agenda.  It’s no mystery why—Billionaire Betsy herself has praised McKee at closed-door meetings in Washington, DC.

Troublingly, McKee has also taken thousands of dollars from the Sackler family, heirs to the OxyContin fortune.

DAN MCKEE AND HIS RIGHT-WING BILLIONAIRE BUDDIES

Dan McKee is a flat-out pro-charter school politician, pushing for privatization of our public schools. He is running for re-election as Lt. Governor of Rhode Island.  

A supporter of DeVos-style education privatization, McKee has earned praise from Trump Education 

Secretary DeVos  who referred to him as a champion and thanked him for promoting her reform agenda.  

But McKee’s ties to DeVos don’t end there—Dan McKee is being boosted by several other supporters of Betsy DeVos and the Trump agenda.

WALTON BILLIONAIRES PUSH RI WORKERS INTO POVERTY — AND MCKEE INTO POLITICS

McKee’s biggest patron is the Walton family, the multi-billionaire heirs and heiresses to the Wal-Mart fortune.  

Wal-Mart treats Rhode Islanders terribly—in 2014, Americans for Tax Fairness estimated that Wal-Mart pay for its Rhode Island workers was so low that employees were forced to rely on $11 MILLION in public assistance —but the Walton family couldn’t love Dan McKee more.  

In 2014 alone, Walton family members supported McKee to the tune of $100,000.  In the 2018 race, McKee has accepted contributions from Wal-Mart heiress Carrie Walton Penner, a major charter school proponent.

Just like McKee, the Walton family is also sweet on Betsy DeVos.  

The Walton Family Foundation has donated a total of $24,740,501 to Betsy DeVos’s school privatization group, the Alliance for School Choice.  In the past ten years for which data is available, Walton Family Foundation contributions to Alliance for School Choice have amounted to an average of 32.29% of the organization’s annual revenue.

Year Contribution total WFF total Percent WFF
2014 $9,311,753.00 $3,540,000.00 38.02%
2013 $9,360,660.00 $3,163,500.00 33.80%
2012 $5,193,313.00 $1,700,000.00 32.73%
2011 $6,309,253.00 $1,202,000.00 19.05%
2010 $3,906,508.00 $2,308,376.00 59.09%
2009 $3,232,978.00 $1,350,379.00 41.77%
2008 $5,766,683.00 $2,231,880.00 38.70%
2007 $10,443,330.00 $1,624,686.00 15.56%
2006 $6,855,656.00 $2,247,095.00 32.78%
2005 $6,883,856.00 $1,862,034.00 27.05%
2004 $4,181,879.00 $695,551.00 16.63%
Average: 32.29%

SCHOOL PRIVATIZERS SWARM DAN MCKEE

Another McKee backer, tech entrepreneur Angus Davis, donated $10,000 to a PAC supporting McKee’s candidacy in 2014.  

Betsy DeVos 

Davis is a former board member of the Center for Education Reform, a pro-voucher organization headed by Heritage Foundation alumn Jeanne Allen.  Jeanne Allen has repeatedly acted as a DeVos surrogate, defending Trump’s embattled secretary of education in the media, and the Center for Education Reform has been one of the few school choice organizations that hasn’t condemned the Trump/DeVos school privatization agenda.

McKee is also being supported by 50CAN, a national education reform organization whose former director, Jim Blew, leads DeVos’s office of planning, evaluation and policy analysis.  50CAN has raised $125,000 to date to support McKee’s candidacy.

McKee is also being boosted by the so-called Democrats for Education Reform (‘DFER’) and their affiliates, to the tune of at least $6,500 since 2012.  

Despite the word ‘Democrats’ in their name, which state Democratic parties in Colorado and California have attempted to prevent them from using, DFER has close ties to Betsy DeVos’s Alliance for School Choice, with their 501(c)4 arm donating $25,000 to DeVos’s school privatization organization in 2010.

Date Donor Amount DFER Connection
12/10/2012 DFER RI PAC (DEMOCRATS FOR EDUCATION REFORM) $500.00 DFER’s PAC
10/21/2013 Tilson, Whitney R $500.00 DFER founder
5/4/2014 Williams, Joeseph $1,000.00 DFER exec. Director
3/30/2013 Williams, Joseph Clarke $1,000.00 DFER exec. Director
3/30/2013 Williams, Anne Martin $1,000.00 Joe Williams’ wife
6/25/2014 Tilson, Susan $250.00 Tilson’s wife
3/5/2013 Tilson, Whitney R $250.00 DFER founder
3/12/2014 Tilson, Whitney R $1,000.00 DFER founder
3/30/2013 Curry IV, Ravenel Boykin $500.00 DFER member
3/23/2012 DFER RI PAC (DEMOCRATS FOR EDUCATION REFORM) $500.00 DFER

DAN MCKEE AND THE BILLIONAIRES WHO BROUGHT US THE OPIOID CRISIS

To hear Dan McKee tell it, he’s been the state’s staunchest fighter of the opioid manufacturers.  But the truth is very different.

His own website claims that McKee “is leading Rhode Island communities in the fight against the prescription opioid epidemic by filing a suit against the companies responsible for fueling the epidemic across Rhode Island.”  That probably makes for awkward table talk with one of his largest campaign donors, the billionaire heirs to the OxyContin fortune.

McKee has accepted thousands of dollars in direct contributions from the Sackler family and their employees.  

The Sacklers are the billionaire heirs to the OxyContin fortune, and their company, Purdue Pharmaceuticals, is being sued by several states attorneys general (including Rhode Island), for their role in fueling the opioid crisis.  

McKee has accepted a total of $6,500 from Jonathan Sackler, Sackler’s spouse, and two of the employees of the company that manages his private fortune.

Date Contributor Employer Amount
6/28/2013 Olson, Brian Kokino LLC $1,000.00
4/2/2014 Olsen, Brian Kokino LLC $500.00
12/26/2013 Olsen, Jill Kokono LLc $1,000.00
6/24/2013 Sackler, Jonathan D Purdue Pharma $1,000.00
10/1/2015 Sackler, Jonathan D Purdue Pharma $1,000.00
4/1/2014 Sackler, Jonathan North Bay Associates $1,000.00
06/24/2013 Corson, Mary Not Employed $1,000.00

 

Dan McKee got the backing of billionaires — charter school billionaires, poverty-wage billionaires, opioid billionaires — while regular families in Rhode Island got hurt.  

Voters in this year’s Democratic primaries should consider going in a different direction:  away from opioids and school privatization, and towards elected officials that put the interests of regular Rhode Island families ahead of the pet projects of the wealthy and powerful.