In 2012, California voters widely supported Governor Brown’s Proposition 30, a ballot measure designed to raise revenue for public schools. It was premised on the common sense idea that the state’s millionaires and billionaires pay their fair share of taxes to fund public schools.
Many of the wealthiest Californians, especially hedge fund managers and private equity investors, did not like that they were being pressured to pay higher taxes. They hid their involvement in the “no” campaign by contributing to Americans for Job Security, a Virginia-based 501(c)4 organization. Their contributions were then funneled through two separate Arizona-based groups in an attempt to shield the wealthy donors’ identities. Presumably they knew that a public campaign against Proposition 30 would draw too much scrutiny and put them on the defensive.
While secretly funding the campaign against Proposition 30, many of these wealthy Californians associated themselves with public schools that have benefited from the fair-share tax revenue they opposed. Additionally, our report shows how many of these wealthy individuals profited from state contracts while trying to block efforts to raise much-needed state funding.
This new report from California Hedge Clippers reveals for the first time the names of dozens of undisclosed billionaire and millionaire donors to Americans for Job Security, the dark money group that funneled massive sums into efforts to oppose Proposition 30.
While 2013 news accounts unmasked a handful of these donors, our investigation reveals a total of 76 contributors to this shadowy group.
According to our estimates, donors to Americans for Job Security have leadership ties to education institutions that have received to date more than $598 million in funds raised through Proposition 30.
In November, California voters will again be asked to decide the future of public school funding. An initiative to extend Proposition 30 for another twelve years will be on the ballot. We urge all wealthy Californians to do the right thing this time for our state’s children. We call on all millionaires and billionaires to support fair-share tax revenue for public schools and not donate a cent to any campaign or 501(c)4 organization that will oppose the extension of Proposition 30.
Key Findings: Prominent Philanthropists and Famous Families Opposed Proposition 30
We draw attention to an elite set of millionaires and billionaires who present themselves as civic-minded philanthropists, but have actively endangered the funding of California’s educational system.
The wealthy individuals named in this report were identified from a partially-redacted donor list released by the California Fair Political Practices Commission after their record $1 million settlement with the dark money group. The California committee that received the campaign funds was ordered to pay – “disgorge” – the $11 million contribution.
Some notable individuals whose donations to Americans for Job Security are being revealed for the first time include:
NILS COLIN LIND – $50,000
Co-founder and managing director of Blum Capital
JOHN H. SCULLY – $500,000
Managing Director of investment firm SPO Advisory Corp.
ANTHONY PRITZKER – $100,000
Pritzker Managing Group, family founded Hyatt Hotels
GEOFF PALMER – $100,000
Luxury housing/real estate developer
GERALD PARSKY – $50,000
Founder & chairman private equity firm Aurora Capital Group
MARC STERN – $50,000
Chairman of investment management firm TCW Group
TONY RESSLER – $25,000
Chairman & CEO of private equity firm Ares Capital Management
JOHN KISSICK – $25,000
Director & partner of private equity firm Ares Capital Management
JEFFREY HENLEY – $25,000
Vice chairman of the Oracle Corporation
CYNTHIA STONE – $10,000
Wife of Oaktree Capital Management’s Senior Executive, Sheldon Stone
The full list of all donors is included at the end of the report.
Other notable individuals whose donations to this dark money group were previously disclosed include:
GREG PENNER – $500,000
Venture capitalist, Chairman of WalMart, husband of Carrie Walton Penner, one of the world’s wealthiest individuals, granddaughter of Sam Walton
ELI & EDYTHE BROAD – $500,000
Co-founder of KB Homes and CEO of insurance company SunAmerica. Now retired
SHELDON & MIRIAM ADELSON – $500,000
Chairman and CEO of Las Vegas Sands Corp, casino and hotel magnate
WILLIAM & MARGARET BLOOMFIELD – $600,000
Chairman of Baron Real Estate
JOHN, DORIS, WILLIAM & RICHARD FISHER – $18,300,000
Heirs of the Gap, Inc. fortune
GLENN STEARNS (and Stearns Lending) – $250,000
Founder and Chairman of Stearns Lending LLC
Dark money frequent fliers
At least five donors to Americans for Job Security had previously donated to other political efforts also designed to shield the true identify of their funders.
- Los Angeles real estate developer Geoff Palmer contributed $100,000. Palmer’s company was previously fined for attempting to obscure donations to a California political group.
- John Scully, Eli Broad, and Doris Fisher, who collectively donated $3 million to Americans for Job Security, were also major funders of California Charter School Association Advocates, a PAC that shielded donors from disclosure during the Los Angeles School Board race.
- John Fisher was a donor to “All Children Matter,” a now defunct PAC that supported pro-voucher candidates fined a record $5.2 million by the Ohio Elections Commission in 2008 for illegally funneling campaign contributions to that state.
SECRET SLUSH FUND PROTECTED PUBLIC PROFILES
The majority of donors to Americans for Job Security identified in our investigation donated ONLY to dark money efforts to stop Prop. 30, and not to organizations legally required to provide transparency.
Of the 76 unique Americans for Job Security donors identified, only seven had donated to one of the three political action committees that opposed Prop. 30.
Unlike Americans for Job Security, those three committees were required by law to disclose their donors.
That leaves us wondering about the rest of the contributors. Were they trying to hide their donations from the public?
Many identified donors were closely linked to individuals and organizations that publicly supported Prop. 30. On the extreme end of apparent hypocrisy there is Eli Broad who, as previously reported, stumped for Governor Jerry Brown in support of the bill.
But other newly revealed donors may have had their own reasons to obscure their contributions.
N. Colin Lind, for example, is the co-founder and managing director of Blum Capital, whose other co-founder, Richard Blum, is a UC Regent. Lind, like many other donors revealed in our investigation, works at a firm that manages money for public pensions and endowments in the state.
Other donors managing substantial pension and endowment investments include Tony Ressler and John Kissick of Ares Management, Marc Stern of TCW Group, and Genstar Capital Management, who may not want it known that they manage the assets of Prop. 30-funded institutions.
PUBLIC SCHOOL IMPROVEMENT VS PRIVATE WEALTH PROTECTION
Many donors to Americans for Job Security have trumpeted their leadership positions at charter school networks and public universities, which ultimately benefited greatly from Prop. 30 funding. Some number of the individuals on this list are affiliated with institutions that directly benefited from Prop. 30 funding.
Three donors to Americans for Job Security have leadership positions with educational institutions that received supplemental funds due to Prop. 30 passage.
- John Scully is a founder of the Making Waves Foundation, which operates the Making Waves Academy Charter School, a recipient of more than $1 million in Prop. 30 funds to date.
- John Fisher, who donated $3,725,000 to the anti-Prop. 30 group, is on the national board of KIPP charter schools. KIPP schools in California have taken in nearly five million dollars in Prop. 30 funds for the 2013-14 school year alone.
- Greg Penner is a board member of Teach for America, which employs 570 teachers in California.
Perhaps more unfittingly are the two schools named for donors to the dark-money Prop. 30 fight. Marc Stern and Anthony Ressler both have charters schools named after them – schools which collectively received over one million dollars in Prop. 30 funds for 2013-14 alone.
All told, we estimate that the wealthy backers of this dark money group are tied to institutions that have received more than $598,066,515.91, to date, from the passage of Proposition 30.
HIGH-PROFILE DARK MONEY DONORS TO AMERICANS FOR JOB SECURITY
Background information on a few of the most notable Prop. 30 donors is below. As is plainly evident, these are some of the wealthiest Californians who can easily afford to pay their fair share toward the education of California’s children.
GEOFF PALMER – $100,000 to Americans for Job Security
Geoff Palmer, developer of luxury condominiums in Los Angeles, is probably the least surprising donor to Americans for Job Security. When it comes to evading campaign finance disclosure, the Americans for Job Security donation was not Palmer’s first rodeo. In 1991, G.H. Palmer and Associates was fined by the California Fair Political Practices Commission for obscuring the true source of contributions to an issue committee.
According to the FPPC, Palmer’s firm reimbursed employees and their relatives for contributions to the campaign.
Palmer’s contribution to Americans for Job Security is also not his first foray into opposing economic justice.
Palmer is essentially responsible for gutting Los Angeles’s inclusionary zoning law that mandated that newly constructed buildings provide affordable housing units. Palmer sued to overturn the law in 2007, successfully arguing that Los Angeles’s affordable housing mandate for rental units was prohibited under state law. (A recent legal decision by the California Supreme Court, in a suit by developers against the City of San Jose, upheld the City’s right to require affordable rental units. Palmer and his developer friends are appealing.)
Palmer, who splits his time between multi-million dollar mansions in Malibu, Beverly Hills, and St. Tropez, appears to be ideologically opposed to paying his fair share. Questioned about opposition to providing affordable housing, Palmer told students at USC: “We don’t need social engineering. Why is it that these people think that real estate developers should give 15% of their profits away?”
Palmer is listed as the registered agent for Malibu Consulting Corporation, the owner of a Boeing 727. According to FAA records, the registration for this craft was exported to Bermuda in 2007, with the aircraft remaining in control of Malibu Consulting.
While there are a variety of reasons that one would register their aircraft in Bermuda, a bulletin by offshore legal advisors Conyers Dill & Pearman highlights Bermuda’s “tax neutrality,” which apparently includes guarantees that future legislation will not create new tax liabilities for companies which are “the registered owner or lessee” of Bermuda-registered aircraft.
Greg penner – $500,000 to Americans for Job Security
Greg Penner is the husband of Carrie Walton Penner, one of the world’s wealthiest individuals. Carrie Walton Penner is the daughter of Rob Walton, and granddaughter of Walmart founder Sam Walton.
Both Carrie and Greg are very active in education reform in California. Carrie Walton Penner is on the board of directors of the Walton Family Foundation, which has funded hundreds of charter schools and education reform organizations.
Given their involvement with public education in California, it’s somewhat odd that the Penners would donate in opposition of Proposition 30 – unless they’re willing to starve public schools to protect their own wealth.
Greg Penner is on the board of Teach for America (TFA). TFA employs 180 teachers in the Los Angeles area, 340 in the Bay Area, 50 teachers in Sacramento. Carrie Walton Penner is also on the board of the California Charter School Association. California charter schools have collectively received more than $457 million in Prop. 30 revenues, according to an analysis of data prepared by the California State Controller’s Office. If the Penners and their fellow dark-money donors to Americans for Job Security got their way, that’s $457 million that students of California’s charter schools would never have seen.
NILS COLIN LIND – $50,000 to Americans for Job Security
N. Colin Lind is the managing partner and co-founder of Blum Capital Partners, the alternative investment firm founded by Richard Blum. Blum, of course, is the husband of California senator Dianne Feinstein.
Blum has been a Regent of the University of California since 2002. The Regents, Blum included, voted to endorse Proposition 30 in 2012. The vote was nearly unanimous, and with good reason: the UC system was expected to receive $125 million in new revenue from the measure, thus preventing a 20.3% tuition increase.
According to news reports, Blum was a vocal supporter of the Regents’ endorsement, describing Prop. 30 as “restoring one of the very core values of this country—the idea of America as a meritocracy, as a society which allows everyone the opportunity to succeed.”
But while Blum was stumping for the UC system endorsement, his number-two executive was cutting a $50,000 check to undermine Prop. 30. We’ll probably never know if Blum was aware of Lind’s donation, but Lind’s contribution to Americans for Job Security does list his address as that of Blum Capital Partners’ Montgomery Street location.
At the time of his donation, Lind was an advisory board member at Aim High, an academic summer program operating out of nearly two dozen public schools across the state. Aim High seeks to provide a free summer learning program for students from underserved communities, a population that certainly would not have been helped by millionaires like Lind and Blum not paying their fair share of California’s education tax bill.
JOHN H. SCULLY – $500,000 to Americans for Job Security
John H. Scully, the former corporate executive and current multimillionaire investor, is the founder of the Making Waves Foundation, which operates the Making Waves Academy charter school in Richmond, CA.
In the 2013-2014 school year, Making Waves Academy received $555,144 in Prop. 30 funds, according to the Comptroller’s Office. That’s only slightly more than John H. Scully donated to Americans for Job Security. In 2014-15, the school appears to have received $760,830, and has elected to spend those funds on busing, special education, and psychological services.
Scully is no stranger to shadowy campaign finance conduits.
Between 2014 and 2015, Scully and his wife donated a total of $500,000 to the California Charter Schools Association Advocates, a PAC that spent $2.3 million in the 2015 Los Angeles school board elections. Campaign finance laws did not require that donors to the PAC be disclosed before the election, preventing timely public disclosure of contributors to the top-spending PAC in the 2015 school board race.
Scully is no stranger to shadowy campaign finance conduits. Click To TweetA founder of the California investment firm SPO Partners, Scully has amassed quite a fortune. He’s spent $400,000 on a model train built to recreate a specific day from his childhood; loaned out a vacant pied-à-terre to his in-laws (furnished with $600,000 in artwork); bought luxury homes in Hawaii and Marin County; and spent over $2.3 million on California political campaigns.
Marc stern – $50,000 to Americans for Job Security
In 2013-14, the Alliance Marc & Eva Stern Math and Science Academy took in $648,796.00 in additional funds raised through Prop. 30 taxation. The school’s namesake, Marc Stern, contributed $50,000 to Americans for Job Security, the dark money group funding the anti-Prop. 30 campaign.
Stern is the chairman of TCW Group, an investment management firm. Stern and his wife live in a $9.4 million home in Malibu, and they also own a $12 million manse in Cape Neddick, Maine, and part of the Milwaukee Brewers.
The Stern family is very active in Republican politics, and was highlighted by the New York Times as one of the 158 families who control nearly half of the donations to 2016 presidential campaigns.
TONY RESSLER AND JOHN KISSICK – $25,000 each to Americans for Job Security
Anthony Ressler and John Kissick are partners of Ares Capital Management, a private equity and alternative investments firm. Both contributed to Americans for Job Security, according to an analysis of records by Hedge Clippers.
At the time of his contribution, Ressler was a board member of the Alliance of College Ready Public Schools in Los Angeles; a charter school operator currently managing twenty-seven schools in L.A. In the year following his donation to the Americans for Job Security, Ressler would be promoted to board chair.
Collectively, schools in the Alliance for College Ready Public Schools network received $8,806,279 in Prop. 30 funds for the 2013-14 school year alone. The Alliance Gertz-Ressler Richard Merkin 6-12 Complex, named for Prop. 30 opponent Anthony Ressler, got $560,839 in Prop. 30 funds.
At the time of his donation, John Kissick was a board member of LA’s Promise, which operates three public schools in the Los Angeles Unified School District. As a district, LAUSD has received more than $1.1 billion in badly-needed Prop. 30 funds since the proposition’s passage.
As a firm, Ares Capital was revealed to have been a client of Alfred Villalobos, the California pension placement agent indicted for his central role in a bribery scheme used to secure CalPERS investment for another client firm. Ares Capital manages $94 billion dollars, a substantial portion of which they manage on behalf of public pension funds and endowments.
GERALD L. PARSKY – $50,000 to Americans for Job Security
Parsky is the founder and chairman of the private equity firm Aurora Capital Group, and a central figure in the California Republican Party.
He began his career as a Nixon appointee in the Treasury department, and later served as state chair for both of George W. Bush’s presidential campaigns. A former Regent of the University of California, Parsky is known for his disastrous remaking of the university’s investment office.
In 1999, Parsky was named chair of the Investment Committee of the UC Regents, the body that handles investments for the UC system pension and endowment funds. Before Parsky’s arrival, the UC investments were internally managed, opting to invest in a broad mix of bonds and equities. This internal management had been a boon for UC retirees, generating an average annual return of 15.6% from 1990-2000, and far surpassing their peer group.
When Parsky took the helm of the investment committee, UC hired Wilshire Associates—whose president contributed $80,0000 to George W. Bush’s presidential campaign a week before the firm was awarded a $350,000 no-bid contract—to recommend new investment policies. Wilshire recommended increasing both UC’s reliance on costly external money managers and alternative investments.
Despite his previous term as a Regent of the UC system, Parsky is one of the least surprising donors to Americans for Job Security. As a member of Governor Schwarzenegger’s blue ribbon tax commission, Parsky favored reducing income taxes on the highest-earning Californians. According to the Sacramento Bee, Parsky led the faction of the commission most interested in slashing taxes on the wealthy.
JEFFREY HENLEY – $25,000 to Americans for Job Security
Jeffrey Henley is the vice chairman of the Oracle Corporation.
Henley is a graduate of UC Santa Barbara and has donated generously to the school—including a $50 million gift in 2012, which was, at the time, the largest single donation in UC Santa Barbara’s history. While discretionary support of public universities is important, Proposition 30 funding was even more important for the viability of California’s public higher education institutions. According to Gov. Brown, the UC system would have lost $250 million per year if Prop. 30 hadn’t passed.
cynthia stone – $10,000 to Americans for Job Security
Cynthia Stone, wife of Oaktree Capital Management’s Sheldon Stone, appears to be a donor to Americans for Job Security, according to an analysis by Hedge Clippers. Sheldon Stone is a principal at Oaktree Capital Management, and earned roughly $100 million in the firm’s 2012 IPO.
A graduate of Bowdoin College, Stone was appointed as a trustee of the small Maine liberal arts school in 2001. Oddly, the school’s endowment appears to be invested in Oaktree Capital, according to a 2015 report in Bloomberg.
The Stones live in a $4.7 million mansion in the hills above Pacific Palisades.
ANTHONY PRITZKER – $100,000 to Americans for Job Security
Anthony Pritzker is a member of the Pritzker Family, founders of Hyatt Hotels, and a multi-billionaire.
Pritzker is on the board of advisors of the UCLA Institute of the Environment and Sustainability, and is the co-chair of UCLA’s Centennial fundraising campaign. In October 2012, UCLA Assistant Vice Chancellor Keith Parker stressed the importance of passing Prop. 30, explaining that there would be “dramatic consequences to both UC and CSU” if the ballot measure failed.
While Pritzker has been generous to UCLA in the past, hosting a glitzy fundraiser at his 49,300 square-foot L.A. mansion (the City’s second largest), California’s children should not depend on a billionaire’s largess to fund their education. With a net worth of $3.3 billion, Pritzker can afford to pay his fair share.
Fisher family – total of $18,300,000 to Americans for Job Security
The Fisher Family includes the heirs to the Gap, Inc. fortune, and has donated heavily to education reform causes.
Doris Fisher, the family matriarch, has served on the Board of Overseers of the University of California, San Francisco Foundation since at least 1998. John Fisher sits on the board of directors for KIPP schools, which operates twenty five schools in California. Collectively, KIPP schools have received $4,787,345 in Proposition 30 funds in the 2012-13 and 2013-14 school years, the only years for which complete data is available.
John Fisher is also no stranger to financing campaigns that run afoul of state campaign finance laws.
Fisher was reported to be a donor to a now-defunct pro-voucher organization called “All Children Matter.”
All Children Matter was created by Dick and Betsy DeVos, the rightwing financiers and heirs to the Amway fortune. All Children Matter was fined a record $5.2 million by the Ohio Elections Commission in 2008, for its role in illegally funneling $870,000 to an Ohio PAC.
Rather than pay the fine, All Children Matter suspended operations and Betsy DeVos simply created a new group to continue her school privatization advocacy—Alliance for School Choice. Fisher joined the Alliance for School Choice board in 2011.
eli and edythe broad – total of $500,000 to Americans for Job Security
Eli Broad is a billionaire banker, developer and investor. The Los Angeles Times revealed Broad to be a donor to Americans for Job Security in 2013.
Despite his secret donations to Americans for Job Security, Broad had publicly supported the Proposition 30 tax increases. Broad stumped for Gov. Brown in support of Proposition 30 at the 2012 State of the State, opining that “those of us that are wealthy like myself should pay more.”
Through his foundation and personal advocacy, Broad has consistently supported charter school expansion. Broad’s donation to oppose the school funding measure looks especially duplicitous in light of his recent plans to drastically expand charter schools in Los Angeles. The Los Angeles Times published a copy of a leaked memo, outlining the Broad Foundation’s plans to open 260 new charter schools in Los Angeles over the next eight years. The plan was unanimously opposed by the L.A. school board on the grounds that it would adversely affect the District’s financial condition.
According to the Broad Foundation website, Eli Broad provides financial support to a number of educational institutions that have received Prop. 30 funds. These include KIPP (25 schools in California), GreenDot (18 schools in California), Alliance (28 schools in California), and Aspire (35 schools in California).
about california hedge clippers
From Sacramento to San Diego, hedge fund managers, private equity firms and real-estate speculators are buying our elections and increasing their wealth at our expense. Across California, a close-knit group of billionaires plays a growing role in so many facets of our daily lives—government, economy, education, criminal justice, environment, and much more. Whether it’s dismantling our public schools, destroying jobs, increasing mass incarceration, accelerating climate change, or gentrifying our neighborhoods, the fingerprints of the financial elite can be found in the worst of what is happening.
California Hedge Clippers is a new campaign to expose and chop down the dark money schemes and strategies used by the billionaire class to advance their greed-driven agenda. They try to hide behind complex jargon and shadowy loopholes, but we’re onto them, fighting back in ways they didn’t expect.
Through hard-hitting research, nimble communications, aggressive direct action and cutting-edge public policy, we are committed to creating a stronger and fairer California that empowers everyone, not just the wealthy and well-connected. We bring together working people, grassroots leaders, statewide groups, and local organizations in a bold effort to rebuild our damaged democracy from the ground up.
 Previously disclosed donors were: the Fisher family, Eli Broad, Sheldon Adelson, Miriam Adelson, Greg Penner, B. Wayne Hughes, Charles Schwab, Jesse Rogers, Margaret Bloomfield, Glen Stearns, The Tully and Elise Friedman Foundation, the American Council of Engineering Companies in California, Wayne Hughes, and Hitchcock Automotive. As has been previously documented in numerous Hedge Clippers reports, including: https://hedgeclippers.org/1464797090949/endangered-endowments/#_ftn1
 http://www.latimes.com/local/education/la-me-charter-donations-20151202-story.html From Elliott Associate’s 12/31/2015 filings here: http://whalewisdom.com/filer/elliott-management-corp
 The seven donors are Robert Rodriguez, Margaret Bloomfield, Steven Romick, Thomas McKernan, John Scully, Robert Arnott and J. Richard Atwood
 While Richard Blum told other UC Regents in July 2012, “I will personally contribute to the [Prop 30] campaign and we should ask our friends and neighbors (to do the same),” he apparently was not able to convince the other co-founder to Blum Capital. Colin Lind donated $50,000 to the anti Prop 30 efforts. http://www.dailycal.org/2012/07/18/uc-regents-vote-to-endorse-governors-november-tax-initiative/
 https://losangeles.teachforamerica.org/; https://bayarea.teachforamerica.org/; https://sacramento.teachforamerica.org/
 Sum of 2013-14, 2012-13 revenues. http://trackprop30.ca.gov/Prop30Map.aspx
 According to an analysis of campaign finance data available on CAL Access.
 https://web.archive.org/web/20050211133331/; http://www.allchildrenmatter.org/
 https://web.archive.org/web/20110429004617/; http://www.theintelligencer.net/page/content.detail/id/133747/School-choice-expanding-as-record-fine-languishes-.html?isap=1&nav=536