Morning Fizz

Major Democratic Donor to Meet with McKenna

By Morning Fizz February 14, 2012

Caffeinated News & Gossip. Your Daily Morning Fizz.

1. Major Democratic donor Nick Hanauer, the head of Seattle venture capital firm 2nd Avenue Partners, has already maxed out to Democratic gubernatorial candidate US Rep. Jay Inslee (Hanauer gave $3,200 in September—his latest contribution on top of millions to Democrats and progressive causes over the years, including $300,000 to the campaign for I-1098, the high-earners income tax, in 2010).

But as the Democrats continued to hem and haw this month on Hanauer's top issue, education reform  (Hanauer founded the ed reform group the League of Education Voters), Hanauer is seriously rethinking his allegiances.[pullquote]"I have a private meeting set up with McKenna for later this month to discuss these issues. I have to believe I’ll find him more compelling than my democrat friends."—Major Democratic donor Nick Hanauer[/pullquote]

Hanauer, according to an email obtained by PubliCola, has scheduled a meeting later this month to talk with Inslee's Republican rival, Washington State Attorney General Rob McKenna, who is running for governor on an ed reform platform such as stronger teacher evaluations and charter schools.

"I am not a big fan of Rob McKenna," Hanauer wrote to a fellow Democratic donor, letting him know he's planning to meet with McKenna, "but there can be no doubt that the positions he is taking on public ed are crisper and more aligned with my thinking than any Democratic leader in our state." Inslee has backed away from ed reform bills, such as the tough teacher evaluation bill cosponsored by Democratic state Sens. Rodney Tom (D-48, Bellevue) and Republican Joe Zarelli (R-18, Ridgefield) last session.

Additionally, earlier this week, Hanauer called state house speaker Rep. Frank Chopp (D-43, Seattle), to chew him out about the Democrats' lagging education reform position after Rep. Eric Pettigrew's (D-37, Seattle) charter schools bill and evaluations bill stalled in the house. Hanauer is also planning to call Democratic state senate majority leader Sen. Lisa Brown (D-3, Spokane) later this week.

Late last week, the senate Democrats revived the evaluation bill—cosponsored by Sen. Tom and Republican Sen. Steve Litzow (R-41, Mercer Island)—and are set to announce a compromise orchestrated by Gov. Chris Gregoire today that will reportedly lean in the direction of stricter teacher evaluations by using student achievement data as a factor in hiring and firing.

Too little too late?

In his email, Hanauer— who got national attention late last year (and a shout out on the Senate floor from US Sen. Patty Murray) after he wrote an opinion piece in Bloomberg BusinessWeek calling on rich people to pay more in taxes—says big Democratic donors need to "reassess where we stand and who we support."  The email, sent to fellow big Democratic donor Jabez Blumenthal, alerts his Democratic compatriot that he's meeting with McKenna and complains about the local Democratic party being "on the wrong side of every important education reform issue."

Hanauer also calls Democratic leadership "stooges for the teachers union," which has fought against the new wave of education reforms for several years now in Olympia—undermining Washington State's bid for federal education money from the Obama administration. (The union made a early endorsement of Inslee for governor.)

Hanauer's angsty letter is a must read because, opening with an apparent reference to his "ballistic" call with Chopp, it reveals what a precarious situation the local Democratic Party is in with its biggest donors.

I did indeed go ballistic. I am despondent over my political parties intransigence on the most important issue in the state-public education reform.

I have seen the enemy, and it is us.

It is impossible to escape the painful reality that we democrats are now on the wrong side of every important education reform issue.

We oppose charter schools. We oppose higher standards for kids. We oppose high standards for teachers. We oppose employment policies based on quality. We oppose accountability in all its forms. We oppose competition in any form. We basically have come to the view that anything that isn’t about equity- like excellence or quality- is bad. We cling to the status quo while we fail the most vulnerable year after year. We resist change and innovation. We prioritize the needs of adults over the interests of children. Washington State is now known as a reform backwater, a joke. Even the Gates Foundation has all but given up hope on our state.

As far as I can tell, the only people in the whole party willing to try to do the right thing are Pettigrew, Hunter, Tom and Hobbs.

There can be no doubt in any reasonable person’s mind that the leadership of our party and most of its elected members are stooges for the teachers union, the ring leader in all of this nonsense.

I want to say that I am a huge supporter of unions. Three and a half years of research for my last book on understanding economies eco-systemically has proved to me that capitalism shouldn’t just tolerate unions, it requires them for survival. Unions are essential for prosperity because they balance the interests of capitalists and provide increasing wages for workers, which creates a virtuous cycle of increasing demand, increasing employment and increasing demand. This is why all prosperous capitalist societies are unionized and why economies that are not unionized tend to be poor. This is why the post war years boomed and why we are now in a death spiral of ever decreasing demand.

But in the same way that unchecked power for capitalists will destroy an economy, so too will the unchecked power of unions. This is because the work rules and constraints that unions place on the institutions they inhabit, decrease the ability of those institutions’ ability to adapt to changing needs. Each new well meaning worker protection makes it less likely that the institution will survive. Today, the WEA is literally strangling our public schools to death with an almost infinite number of institutionalized rules that limit change, innovation and excellence.

Workers deserve fair wages and reasonable protections. But 90% of what is in most teacher contracts is self-destructive bullshit designed to protect the adults with the most seniority and the least ability in the system. And everyone knows this. Even other union leaders in private will admit that the teachers make all unions look bad because they are so obviously counter-productive and self interested.

I have been a life long democrat because I believe that in general, our approach to policy is more likely to make the country better for most people than the Republican law of the jungle approach. But in Washington State, after 28 years in power with almost nothing to show for it, it is time to reckon with ourselves on what we stand for. I am a democrat, but first, I am an American and a patriot. The primary business and paramount duty of the state is to educate our kids. We are failing and we have no one to blame but ourselves.

I am not a big fan of Rob Mckenna, but there can be no doubt that the positions he is taking on public ed are crisper and more aligned with my thinking than any democratic leader in our state. I believe that most citizens in Washington will agree. One of the greatest travesties here is the way in which democrats have ceded the issue and high moral ground to republicans. I have a private meeting set up with Mckenna for later this month to discuss these issues. I have to believe I’ll find him more compelling than my democrat friends.

I know this is harsh, but I think it is time for reasonable and honest progressive leaders like you and I and all of our peers to reassess where we stand and who we support. I think we need to have a larger conversation with that group of donors and leaders. I believe that we mostly agree that making the country better is more important than party affiliation.

Looking forward to you thoughts. Feel free to share this with the gang.

We have asked Inslee's campaign and the Washington State Democrats for a response.

"Rob meets with a great many people who care about education," McKenna spokesman Randy Pepple, who confirmed that a meeting is scheduled, says. "And Mr. Hanauer is one of those people. Nick cares passionately about education and so does Rob."

2. As a Jolt vote count predicted yesterday afternoon, the state house passed the "Reproductive Parity Act" last night. The legislation, sponsored by Seattle-area Rep. Eileen Cody (D-34, W. Seattle) requires all health insurance policies that cover maternity care to cover abortion care.

NARAL Pro-Choice Washington Interim Executive Director Christi Stapleton issued the following statement.

“We applaud the 52 members of the House who recognize that all women, regardless of income, need and deserve access to the full range of reproductive health care options, including abortion. Without this legislation, women have no guarantee that they will have access to health insurance coverage for abortion as Washington implements the federal Affordable Care Act.  The Reproductive Parity Act reaffirms Washington’s pro-choice values and ensures that women don’t lose any ground.”

State Sen. Steve Hobbs (D-44, Lake Stevens) is sponsoring a senate version.

3. We'll let the press release speak for itself on this one: "The first Internet Radio Station in the Northwest tied to a network of local blogs will launch and officially start broadcasting 'live' online Wednesday evening (Feb. 15th) at 6 p.m., and will feature a live musical performance by King County Prosecutor Dan Satterberg."

Satterberg plays in two bands, The Approximations and the Treehouse Dreamers,  "when he's not busy putting away bad guys," the press release continues (true). The show, sponsored by the B-Town Blog, is at Burien's Tin Theater tomorrow at 6.

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