After Brave New Foundation’s searing video, exposing the role Koch-funded organizations like Americans for Prosperity are taking in the re-segregation of schools and the undermining of public education’s very foundations, began circulating on the internet, the group naturally expected some blowback.
And naturally, it came, albeit poorly and someone incoherently, from AFP branches around the country.
AFP didn’t much like it, and that’s disappointing. With its extensive track record of influencing and supporting elections – all adverbs are appropriate – we would think AFP would’ve taken another victory lap after our video.
They have done so previously.
Following the 2009 Wake County school board election, Americans for Prosperity waited a few months before publically popping champagne bottles. The blog entitled, “Your grassroots action really paid off in Wake County Public Schools,” is a self-congratulatory missive AFP published. In light of the role AFP played in Wake County, the blog post affirms its active role in repealing and replacing successful school integration policies.
… Americans for Prosperity has a track record of pleading ignorance and feigning innocence elsewhere too. ..
We are disappointed AFP doesn’t like our work, research, interviews or personal stories that reflect a pleasant working and middle class community trying to fight against outside right-wing agitation and influence.
But Americans for Prosperity goes further, and we’re amused its North Carolina chapter made embarrassing mistakes in its attempt to erase a story about its influence in the state. AFP got our name wrong. We are Brave New Foundation, not Brave New Films. The group got our President’s name wrong. His name is Robert Greenwald, not Robert Greenwell.
The mixture of backpedaling, attacks and hysteria caused by the BNF video (link here) show that they’ve truly hit a nerve and that AFP knows this exposure can harm its reputation irreparably.
[UPDATE]: In an August 16 letter to Brave New Foundation Robert Greenwald, Dallas Woodhouse, Americans for Prosperity's North Carolina state director, attacked the premise of Greenwald's film, saying it "falsely claims" AFP was involved in the 2009 Wake County school board elections. Woodhouse asserts that AFP "did not spend a single dime on those elections" nor did it engage in any get-out-the-vote or voter education efforts. "AFP played no role in the 2009 WCPSS election," Woodhouse asserts. Read his full response.
In its response to AFP, Brave New Foundation stood by its story. BNF pointed to several statements of AFP-NC's in support of its claims, including a 2008 blog post of Woodhouse's saying AFP-NC "is on record as supporting the parents of WakeCARES, through significant financial contributions as well as other support." In the fall of 2009, WakeCARES endorsed the four school board candidates who opposed Wake County's busing policy, and a former AFP-NC director later credited WakeCARES with paving the way for the four candidates' victories. BNF alleged AFP "funneled" financial support to the candidates through Art Pope, a wealthy Raleigh businessman and an AFP national director, who gave more than $15,000 to the Wake GOP which in turn spent nearly all of its political donations in 2009 on backing the four conservative school board candidates. AFP-NC's Woodhouse also toldNewsweek in January that his group did voter education and mobilized volunteers for the school board election.]
A new film exposes how the billionaire political donors backed re-segregation in Wake County, North Carolina.
At first glance, the billionaire libertarian Koch brothers and the Wake County, North Carolina, school board couldn’t be more disparate. Charles and David Koch, the brains behind the massive Koch Industries conglomerate and the funders of so many right-wing political causes, are national figures, credited with (or accused of, depending on your political persuasion) launching the tea party movement and waging war  on the Obama administration and its agenda. The Wake County public school board is, well, just that.
In reality, there are deep connections between the Kochs and Wake County, and it’s all about the money. The latest installment in the left-leaning Brave New Foundation’s “Koch Brothers Exposed”  video series reveals how a Koch-founded and funded outfit, Americans for Prosperity, fueled a campaign to “resegregate” the schools of Wake County, a prosperous area in central North Carolina that’s home to the cities of Raleigh and Cary, among others. 
Since 2000, Wake County has used a system of integration based on income. Under this program, no more than 40 percent of any school’s students could receive subsidized lunches, a proxy for determining the level of poverty. The school district is the 18th largest in the country, and includes Raleigh, its surrounding suburbs and rural areas. It became one of the first school systems in the nation to adopt such a plan.
The new board touted their plan as one that would end busing and eliminate class, and subsequently race, as a factor for student school assignments. The “neighborhood schools” plan would assign students to schools closer to where they lived, meaning students from mostly poor and black communities would likely attend schools whose demographics were much the same. White children from well-heeled families would be more likely to attend schools filled with upper-middle class white children and enjoy more resources.
The elections led to heated protests. Under pressure from community groups and activists, the school board halted the plan for further review. It has since developed a number of alternative plans, though most of those would still have some re-segregating effect.
The NAACP filed a complaint with the Department of Justice in response, and there have been legal challenges based on the plan’s constitutionality.
“Our issue is how are the children, both black and white, going to be cared for,” said the Rev. WIlliam Barber, who heads the North Carolina chapter of the NAACP. “When we argue for diversity, it is not simply, ‘People need to be in close proximity to each other.’ Whenever you have racially identifiable, high-poverty schools, you also have corresponding with that under-resources and high teacher turnover.”
The complaint filed by the NAACP contends that “African-American, Hispanic and mixed-race students and their families, have been injured by the intentionally racially discriminatory actions of a five-member majority of the Wake County Board of Education,” and that upon winning a majority, the new board “immediately took drastic steps to reassign non-White students to schools with a higher percentage of non-White students than their prior school, and to reassign White students to schools with a higher percentage of white students than their prior school.”
The latest installment of Brave New Foundation's documentary series "Koch Brothers Exposed" reveals the Kochs' assault on public education.
Forced busing. Neighborhood schools. These were the watchwords of fights across the nation against the racial integration of public schools in the 1960s. Today, they're the watchwords of a new majority on a North Carolina school board that has set about dismantling the successful integration policy of the Wake County School District.
In a powerful new video short (see video below this article) from Robert Greenwald and his Brave New Foundation, the fifth and latest installment in the foundation's "Koch Brothers Exposed" series, we hear those watchwords tumble from the lips of newly-elected school board members, juxtaposed with footage of 1960s-era segregationists uttering the very same phrases. (Full disclosure: Greenwald serves on the board of directors of the Independent Media Institute, of which AlterNet is a part.)
The members of the Wake County school board's new majority won their seats in 2009 with organizing by the state chapter of Americans For Prosperity, the Tea Party-allied astroturf group funded by Charles and David Koch, in one of the most expensive school board races in the state's history. North Carolina retail magnate Art Pope, who serves as a director on the Americans For Prosperity Foundation, is deeply involved in the effort, as the Washington Post reported earlier this year.
“The Koch brothers have more than $42 billion to make public policy out of their anti-government ideology,” said Brave New Foundation founder Robert Greenwald in a statement. “Their assault against public education epitomizes their tactics to remake our nation.”
In a fast-moving online film titled “Echo Chamber” (embedded below), in which Sanders is the narrator, the independent senator offers a litany of examples in which he claims David and Charles Koch have spent tens of millions of dollars to dupe the American people into believing that Social Security is going bankrupt and needs major changes to survive.
A group of think tanks have received more than $28.4 million in Koch funding and produced more than 300 position papers distorting the purpose and effectiveness of Social Security, according to filmmaker Brave New Foundation.
The film reveals a cottage industry comprised of Koch brothers’ spokespeople, front groups, think tanks, academics and elected officials, which have built a perpetual echo chamber that Sanders argues is transforming what were once “fringe” ideas into popular mainstream public policy arguments.
Those fringe ideas? That the retirement age for Social Security needs to be increased to 70; that Social Security is already bankrupt; and that Social Security, or portions of it, should be privatized and invested in the stock market.
“The Koch Brothers’ job is to do everything they can to dismember government in general,” Sanders says in the film. “If you can destroy Social Security, you will have gone a long way forward in that effort.”
Earlier this year, Sanders introduced legislation aimed at protecting Social Security from benefit cuts or raising the retirement age. Sanders contends that Social Security currently has a $2.6 trillion surplus and that surplus is projected to grow to $4.2 trillion in 2023.
WASHINGTON — Bipartisan negotiators representing the House, Senate and White House continue to haggle over what spending cuts will be demanded in exchange for agreeing to pay past debts. The group is deadlocked on the two key issues, however, as Republicans insist that no tax increases can be any part of an agreement, while Democrats are ruling out cuts to entitlement programs such as Social Security and Medicare.
A new video by Robert Greenwald’s Brave New Films, “The Koch Echo Chamber,” puts the GOP position that changes to Social Security ought to be a part of a deficit reduction plan in the context of the Koch brothers’ longtime support for conservative and libertarian organizations who argue for such cuts.
Over the years, the Mercatus Center, the Cato Institute, the Heritage Foundation and Reason Foundation have collectively been given $28 million by the GOP benefactors, the film notes, tying that giving to a subsequent shift in the public conversation as it relates to Social Security.
This past weekend, 1,000 conservative activists gathered in Minneapolis for the RightOnline conference. The “grassroots” summit was convened by the Americans for Prosperity Foundation, which was founded by the billionaire Koch brothers, who are among the most prolific funders of the conservative right.
A new video by Robert Greenwald and his Brave New Foundation illustrates the Koch brothers’ echo chamber by looking at one prominent example: Social Security. “What the Koch brothers want to do is destroy Social Security, because Social Security is a federal government program that has been enormously successful,” says Senator Bernie Sanders, who narrates the video.
The video shows how the Koch’s perpetuate the myth that Social Security is in crisis by funding prominent think tanks like the Cato Institute and the Heritage Foundation, pundits on Fox News and CNBC, and politicians like Paul Ryan. The $28.6 million that flows to the think tanks leads to over 300 policy papers advocating the dismantlement of Social Security, which in turn provides new fodder for conservative talking heads and politicians. The film debunks three top “Social Security distortions”—that the retirement age must be raised, that the program is going bankrupt, and that Social Security must be privatized. “The Koch brothers job is to do everything they can to dismember government in general,” said Sanders, “and if you can destroy Social Security, you will have gone a long way forward in that effort.”