A Timeline of the John Connolly/Stand for Children Debacle

So much for that outside spending.

There are few things more predictable in contemporary political campaigns, at least in Massachusetts, than the holier-than-thou slapfest over outside expenditures. It was obviously coming in the Boston mayoral race. Now it’s here. Anyone feeling edified?

Here’s the timeline that led to the John Connolly/Stand for Children debacle, as I see it.

A while back, it became clear that some school-reform groups were going to help out school-reform candidate Connolly, that some labor groups were going to help out pro-union candidate Marty Walsh, and that some women’s groups were going to help out lone female candidate Charlotte Golar Richie. The shock was so seismic I needed my damn smelling salts.

Rob Consalvo, noticing a disturbing absence of big-dollar PACs dedicated to the advancement of short Italian-Americans, realized that he would be left without allies spending their time and resources singing his praises. He was, however, blessed with a surfeit of clever political strategists, so he came out and staked a claim to the brave position of Candidate Who Refuses To Accept Dirty Money That Nobody Offered Him. Well done.

As we approach the great Labor Day kickoff of the real three-week campaign, these outside groups started getting geared up for action. Most of them were smart enough to be doing this in a reasonably quiet way. Perhaps even stealthily, one might say.

One, however, chose to make it widely known exactly who they were, what they wanted to do, and why they wanted to do it. In some contexts this is called “disclosure,” but in this case, we can call it “shooting yourself in the nuts.”

The group in question is called Stand For Children, and they are not stealthy. They may be wrong-headed, or perhaps even controlled by evil corporatists, but they’re pretty upfront about what they’re doing. They spend a whole lot of money on certain kinds of school-reform measures.

A bunch of mayoral candidates submitted themselves to SFC’s endorsement process, including a questionnaire and interview. Consalvo cleverly did not. The endorsement went to Connolly. And, as I suggested, instead of simply running ads on his behalf with a little tag line so that reporters like me have to write pieces disclosing who’s behind the ads, SFC did a little media blitz to promote the fact that they were doing it. Big mistake. The Globe put it on the front page, and all of a sudden the big issue in the race became exactly how much this impending half-million-dollar-plus ad campaign corrupted Connolly.

Unsurprisingly, Consalvo jumped all over this and declared himself holier than Connolly. Mike Ross also declared himself holier than Connolly, but nobody noticed because there can only be one holiest guy in the race and Consalvo had already claimed it.

Then Dan Conley declared himself holier than Connolly. This was a bit surprising because Conley had in fact gone through the entire process of seeking the Stand For Children endorsement. So, you know, not so much holy as a sore loser.

Yesterday afternoon, I asked Conley’s spokesperson about that apparent hypocrisy. He said that while yes, Conley did actively seek Stand For Children’s endorsement, at his meeting with them he had urged them to stick to issue advocacy, and not to spend any money on behalf of any candidate, himself or otherwise. Which was clearly going to be the most ludicrous thing I would hear all week, and it was only Tuesday.

How wrong I was. This morning Connolly held a press conference and issued a press release, telling those foul-stenched SFC vultures, whom he had previously spent so much effort sucking up to, to take their filthy lucre and begone, and let never their faces darken his door again. Apparently he is also telling Democrats For Education to stop canvassing for him, too. Apparently, if you happen to believe that John Connolly would be the mayor most likely to improve the education of Boston’s children, he’d like you to keep that to yourself. We’ll see whether the same rule is supposed to apply to the Boston Teachers Union if and when they endorse somebody to try to beat Connolly. (Combination disclosure/self-promotion: I am moderating a BTU mayoral candidates debate on September 11.)

After Connolly’s performance, Conley held another press conference about all this, just to remind people of how holy he is or something. Or maybe he found some more Strangler DNA—I don’t know what the hell he’s doing, to be quite honest.

I also don’t know whether Walsh is going to now tell the labor groups who have formed PACs to back off. Maybe. I really doubt that Richie is going to tell the Massachusetts Women’s Political Caucus to stop door-knocking on her behalf, and given her meager campaign account, she’d be an idiot to thumb her nose at any spending EMILY’s List or others want to do.

What I do know is that I now have spent a bunch of time yet again on this type of nonsense bickering. And I’m sure it won’t be the last.

UPDATE: Marty Walsh has issued a press release, staking out the holier-than-thou moral high ground in opposition to the “political theater” of Connolly this morning staking out the holier-than-thou high ground in opposition to outside spending. Walsh remains opposed to the People’s Pledge.

  • ConeyIslandtoBoston

    The Maestro has spoken!

  • The Indignant Teacher

    The Indignant Teacher has posted on her blog a letter to John Connolly asking why he went through the extensive endorsement screening process if he didn’t “want” the money. Let’s see if he answers:

    http://theindignantteacher.wordpress.com/2013/08/21/the-indignant-teacher-to-john-connolly-if-you-didnt-want-the-money-why-did-you-do-this/

  • Dorian

    Why would anyone want SFC’s endorsement? They’re a shady right-wing “education reform” group funded by billionaire owners of walmart. Their only interest is to “destroy the teachers unions” (actual quote from board member), and to completely dismantle public education in this country. This goes far beyond just a few more charters.

    http://crooksandliars.com/susie-madrak/stand-children-founder-brags-about-wh

  • Parent Imperfect

    I love the tone of this, but wonder if anyone did anything right here? In the wake of Citizen’s United, money buys elections, now more than ever. “People’s Pledges” are nice (even if they are launched by candidates who wouldn’t have access to the money they are pledging against), but we need to change the law around this stuff.

    One of the good things about this election is that people are at least talking about how groups outside of a city can and do buy important local elections. It sounds like you’re in the Larry Harmon school of “get real and take the $$$, chump.” John Connolly may lack a spine, but not because he saw the dangers of having his name all over STAND ads trumpeting charters and the privatization of education. I disagree with most aspects of the Connolly position on school reform, but can’t criticize him for seeking the political support of school reform organizations that seem to agree with him, however insidious they might be. By getting STAND’s support and then declining their “independent campaign,” he may well have kept their dough out of this election. For me, that’s a good, if unintended, outcome. After he gets pulled through the ringer on this, I hope Connolly will take a second look at the way he’s talking (and thinking) about education reform.

    The media talk about Connolly “turning down” big STAND bucks made for good headlines, but confused things more than clarified. Your timeline is great, but you missed a chance to help people understand the way this all works.

  • Boston Voter

    Good to see people making clear that Connolly did pursue that out-of-state pro-charter school support before he was against it. I can’t believe he is claiming that he didn’t know there would be money behind that endorsement until he read it in the Globe last week.

    I hope people will also check into Connolly’s resume and notice that while he introduces himself as a former teacher, most of his career was actually spent as a lawyer. My understanding is that he taught for about 3 years ending 15 years ago, then he went to law school and practiced law for 11 years up until last year when he was prepping to run for mayor. Given that timeline, it seems odd to me that his campaign bio barely mentions being a lawyer (www.connollyforboston.com/meet-john), and on the other hand, his law firm bio doesn’t mention anything about teaching (www.scclawfirm.com/bios.php?page=john). I have nothing against lawyers running for office, but I’m very turned off by candidates who seem to be hiding things.