Consalvo to education reform group: Get out of mayor’s race

By 
Gintautas Dumcius, News Editor
Jul. 19, 2013

City Councillor Rob Consalvo is pressing a national education reform group, which has a Massachusetts chapter backing a rival for mayor, to stay out of the race.

In a letter addressed to the chair of Democrats for Education Reform, Kevin Chavous, Consalvo noted that he has called for candidates to sign an oath agreeing that “outside” groups keep their independent expenditures out of the race. It is called the “Boston Pledge,” similar to the “People’s Pledge” agreed to by Scott Brown and Elizabeth Warren in the U.S. Senate race in 2012. “Unfortunately, the candidate you support has not agreed to the Boston Pledge, so I am making an appeal directly to you,” Consalvo wrote. “If you care about Boston, please understand that our city needs a mayor who will be beholden to the people, not outside groups like yours who care first and foremost about their own agenda.”

The Massachusetts arm of the Democrats for Education Reform (DFER) is supporting City Councillor At-Large John Connolly, the City Council’s Education Committee chair, for mayor. A recent independent expenditure report showed that DFER, which is run by a Boston resident, Liam Kerr, spent $3,695 in support of Connolly, most of that going towards canvassing.

The group’s mid-year campaign finance filing, which covered DFER’s involvement in the special election earlier this year to replace former state Sen. Jack Hart (D-South Boston), offered additional detail: A number of individual donors are teachers, including some from Boston Public Schools, and students. They hail from Boston, Cambridge, Somerville, and Needham. Most of the funding – around $25,000 – came from a 501c4 organization, Education Reform Now Advocacy, in New York.

Another national group, EMILY’s List, has endorsed Charlotte Golar Richie, the only woman in the race, and has set up a local account with the state Office of Campaign and Political Finance. Union groups are funneling funds to state Rep. Marty Walsh and City Councillor At-Large Felix Arroyo.

Consalvo has received donations from supporters outside the city and the state, much like many of his fellow contenders, on top of a majority of his donations coming from Boston residents. But Consalvo, who attended a private school in West Roxbury and an Ohio university, has contended they are, like his finance chair from Weston, friends from around the state and country whose individual contributions are available for public viewing and adhere to campaign donation limits.

With a dozen candidates running to replace Mayor Thomas Menino, the race has a far different dynamic than the Warren-Brown match-up, or the other one-on-one races that used versions of the “People’s Pledge.” Asked about the logistics of using the pledge in a 12-way race, Consalvo said, “We’d figure it out. I think it’s a great question, something we can look at and decide how we sort of clearly and transparently address that issue. The fact of the matter is those details can be worked out.”

No other candidates have signed the pledge, which Consalvo first proposed in April. Consalvo’s campaign started to beat the “Boston Pledge” drum again this week, with a press conference outside City Hall on Sunday, followed by attempts to hand-deliver the pledge to other candidates’ offices.

Consalvo’s letter is available below:

Kevin P. Chavous
Democrats for Education Reform
503 2nd Street, NE
Washington, DC 20002

Dear Mr. Chavous:

As a parent of two Boston Public School students, I have a personal investment in making sure Boston schools provide every child with access to a quality education. I respect your organization’s focus on improving public education, but I am disappointed that you apparently want to use the race to replace Mayor Tom Menino as an opportunity to push your agenda. On behalf of the city I love and hope to lead, I am writing to ask you to keep your outside money out of the Boston mayors race.

According to the Massachusetts Office of Campaign and Political Finance, your organization has already begun to dump money into this race. We don’t know where that money comes from, but we know it comes with one purpose: to further your agenda.

I have asked my fellow candidates in this race to sign a pledge modeled after the groundbreaking People’s Pledge drafted by Senator Elizabeth Warren and former Senator Scott Brown. To me, this isn’t rocket science. The People’s Pledge worked the 2012 U.S. Senate race and it worked earlier this year in the primary election between U.S. Rep. Steve Lynch and U.S. Sen. Ed Markey. My Boston Pledge would require candidates to make a contribution to the One Fund if outside groups like your organization interfere in this race.

Unfortunately, the candidate you support has not agreed to the Boston Pledge, so I am making an appeal directly to you. If you care about Boston, please understand that our city needs a mayor who will be beholden to the people, not outside groups like yours who care first and foremost about their own agenda.

This is the first wide-open race for Mayor of Boston in this post-Citizens United world we live in and I’m worried that agenda-driven outside special interest groups like yours see a political opportunity in this race that has little to do with what is best for Boston.

Sincerely,

Rob Consalvo