Wednesday, July 25, 2007

Clergy for Educational Options

If you can’t tell, here at Barbecue & Politics I like pulling the string on the whole “South Carolina” voucher lobby.

It all started in earnest last year, when I stumbled across the fact that a member of the S.C. Education Oversight Committee, Karen Iacovelli, had signed an anti-public school pledge. No big deal though, I guess. Stranger things have happened.

A little later, I came across an article about a bogus grass-roots group called “Missourians in Charge” that was funded by a mysterious, libertarian New Yorker named Howard Rich - a situation I thought sounded vaguely familiar. That “vague familiarity” turned out to be more than just a coincidence. I began to understand why a ‘grass roots’ group like South Carolinians for Responsible Government was so coy about revealing its funding ... despite Paul Simon's clear admonition that you don't need to be coy, Roy.

Then, earlier this summer, after some surmisin’ and triangulatin’ and whatnot, Gervais found that the official blogger of SCRG, the “Voice for School Choice,” was actually a New Jersey-bred libertarian named Chaim “Chuck” Karczag who had also signed the pledge against public schools.

Finally, we examined numerous South Carolina legislative candidates (and a couple actual legislators) whose campaigns were predominantly funded by the out-of-state voucher lobby. I even pulled out the old TI-85 calcumalator and figured out that voucher kingpin Howard Rich was the single biggest entity bankrolling SC political campaigns in 2006. By far. At this point, though, nothing really surprises me about this outfit.

So why does Gervais do it, anyway?

Well, I enjoy it. The poking around in the darkest corners of the internet, the anonymous irate comments, the stamping out of fraud and fabrication perpetrated on the good folks of South Carolina. What warm-blooded mammal wouldn’t get a rise out of such exhilarating stuff? (Answer: only the Spotted Cuscus of New Guinea.)

But another reason is that there is so much dang material out there. It’s hard to find a single facet of this operation that isn’t tainted with some sort of detestable behavior, whether it’s circumventing our state’s contribution limits, sending phony letters to the editor, or simply signing a blood oath against SC schools.

The conclusion I was headed toward was that there wasn’t a single “voice” for vouchers in the Palmetto State that wasn’t either (a) an ideological opponent of our schools; (b) funded from Howard Rich’s out-of-state voucher lobby; or (c) both.

So naturally, I was a little suspicious of the voucher group “Clergy for Educational Options,” which got some ink in the Sunday paper. CEO, created in 2005, purports to be a grass roots organization of black ministers and churches. It has a killer website. According to founder Rev. Richard L. Davis, the group’s membership is comprised of over 300 of our state’s churches.

That’s a lot of people, people.

But, seeing as how only one African-American lawmaker supports Howard Rich’s voucher plan, and that Democratic legislator's seat was bought and paid for with out-of-state money, I couldn’t help but ask the question… Is Clergy for Educational Options another prop-up group funded from out-of-state? Is it just another Rich-funded SCRG affiliate?

Or is this finally an independent, authentic, grass roots voice for voucher-izing the Palmetto State?

Gervais wonders, and you should too.


Vouchers Stink said...
This comment has been removed by a blog administrator.
Gervais S. Bridges said...

That last comment was a bit overboard. (Or perhaps I'm a bit underboard.)

Anonymous said...

no gervais. it was right on the money.