Today the Dispatch ran a seemingly innocent Op Ed in support of the charter school changes included in the house budget bill. The Op Ed was written by Thomas F. Needles who the Dispatch identifies as an employee of a “Columbus-based government-relations consulting firm”.
In the piece Tom defends the changes to Ohio’s charter school laws and goes so far as to claim that White Hat Management, the for-profit charter school company who stands to directly benefit financially from the changes, is “a proven and effective education management organization.”
More on Tom in a second, first a little background on the charter school changes Tom supports in his Op Ed.
As we’ve pointed out many times here at Plunderbund, the budget bill that just passed the house seems to have been custom designed to benefit White Hat Management, the operator of many poorly performing charter schools in Ohio and a huge GOP campaign donor. The changes will lift limits on the number of schools White Hat can operate, allow White Hat to legally run schools as for-profit entities and remove existing oversight and regulations that keep the schools in check.
Now back to Tom Needles.
You want to take a wild guess who Tom Needles works for?
I think you already know the answer.
Tom Needles is a registered lobbyist for White Hat Management.
He has personally contributed thousands of dollars to the campaigns of Kasich, Amstutz and other Republicans.
He also manages Go-Go PAC for White Hat’s David Brennan. Go-Go Pac is a political fundraising committee that also donated thousands to Kasich and Taylor and Amstutz, and is funded exclusively by White Hat’s owner David Brennan and his family. Go-Go Pac has been used by the Brennan family and Needles since 2005 to funnel money to Republican candidates (including tens of thousands to Speaker Batchelder) in excess of the legal campaign finance limits.
And here’s the clincher: according to multiple source, Tom Needles actually helped write the charter school-related language in the budget.
Take a minute to digest all that.
Tom Needles is a charter school lobbyist who works for White Hat. He helps direct tens of thousands of dollars in campaign contributions from his client to Ohio’s Republican politicians. And he’s the guy Republicans get to write their changes to charter school legislation? Changes that open the door for his employer to expand its already large footprint in Ohio, raking in millions of state dollars for its failing charter schools.
Something is seriously wrong with this picture. And we’re not the only one seeing it.
Over the weekend the PD’s Brent Larkin called out Brennan and Republicans in the House in his scathing piece about the proposed charter school changes. Larkin comes right out and says what all of us already know: Batchelder and his caucus have been “bought and paid for” by White Hat and its owner David Brennan.
Everyone knew David Brennan and White Hat Management were involved with the charter school changes in the budget, and now we know who helped them put it all together. It’s hard not to see this situation as anything more than a straight up bribe – with Tom Needles playing the roll of bagman.