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Jonathan Sackler’s Bouncer Foundation: Opioid-Funded Ed Reform

March 8, 2019

Purdue Pharma is the company that produces the opioid, OxyContin.

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The Sackler family– including noted ed reformer Jonathan Sackler— owns Purdue Pharma.

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Jonathan Sackler

In June 2018, the Commonwealth of Massachusetts sued Purdue Pharma and Sackler family; on January 31, 2019, Massachusetts attorney general, Maura Healy filed an amended, longer, suit, for Purdue Pharma’s having “created the [opioid drug] epidemic and profited from it through a web of illegal deceit.” From the amended lawsuit:

Dangerous opioid drugs are killing people across Massachusetts. Prescription medicines, which are supposed to protect our health, are instead ruining people’s lives. Every community in our Commonwealth suffers from the epidemic of addiction and death.

Purdue Pharma created the epidemic and profited from it through a web of illegal deceit. First, Purdue deceived Massachusetts doctors and patients to get more and more people on its dangerous drugs. Second, Purdue misled them to use higher and more dangerous doses. Third, Purdue deceived them to stay on its drugs for longer and more harmful periods of time. All the while, Purdue peddled falsehoods to keep patients away from safer alternatives. Even when Purdue knew people in Massachusetts were addicted and dying, Purdue treated doctors and their patients as targets to sell more drugs. At the top of Purdue, a small group of executives led the deception and pocketed millions of dollars. …

Defendant Purdue Pharma Inc. is a drug company incorporated in New York with its principal place of business in Connecticut. …

The seventeen individual defendants are current and former directors of Purdue Pharma Inc. …

Defendants Richard Sackler, Beverly Sackler, David Sackler, Ilene Sackler Lefcourt, Jonathan Sackler, Kathe Sackler, Mortimer Sackler, and Theresa Sackler controlled Purdue’s misconduct. Each of them took a seat on the Board of Directors of Purdue Pharma Inc. Together, they always held the controlling majority of the Board…. They directed deceptive sales and marketing practices deep within Purdue….

According to March 04, 2019, STAT News, Purdue Pharma has filed a motion to dismiss. A STAT News excerpt:

The 45-page motion serves as Purdue’s effort to push back against claims that generated national media attention and painted Purdue and its officials as driven by profits and pushing sales representatives to score more prescriptions.

In the motion, Purdue seeks to distance itself from overdose deaths that are now occurring. It cites data from the Massachusetts Department of Public Health showing that fatal overdoses are being largely caused by heroin and illicit fentanyl, not prescription painkillers. It also references language from the state health department that says “no single substance or health care practice is solely responsible for the current opioid crisis.”

As a result, the motion states, “Purdue’s medications (let alone Purdue’s alleged conduct) cannot, as a matter of law, be the cause of the opioid abuse crisis.”

(Purdue critics argue that many people became addicted to opioids by first taking painkillers and then shifted to using heroin or other illicit opioids.)

Also on March 04, 2019, the Wall Street Journal reports that Purdue Pharma might also be pursuing bankruptcy as a way to “contain liability from hundreds of lawsuits”:

OxyContin maker Purdue Pharma LP is preparing a possible bankruptcy filing as it seeks to contain liability from hundreds of lawsuits alleging it fueled the nation’s opioid epidemic, according to people familiar with the matter.

Its restructuring advisers now include AlixPartners LLP, a New York-based consulting firm known for its restructuring work, according to a person familiar with the hiring. The company last year hired law firm Davis Polk & Wardwell LLP as restructuring counsel and added longtime restructuring specialist Steve Miller to chair its board.

Purdue has been targeted in lawsuits by some 1,600 cities, counties and states seeking to recoup costs incurred by widespread opioid abuse.

Now, here’s the WSJ kicker:

In late 2018, information shared with parties in the multidistrict litigation revealed that Purdue’s assets may not be enough to resolve the company’s potential liability, in part because most of its profits had been regularly transferred to members of the company’s controlling family, the Sacklers, according to people familiar with the matter.

Thus, the picture of Jonathan Sackler’s ed reform funding as being directly connected to Purdue Pharma profits is pretty clear. Moreover, an interesting piece to emerge in this Sackler opioid saga is the apparent Sackler family strategy of purchasing the components vital to growing the success of the product, referred to as “seeding” in this January 15, 2019, STAT News article, excerpted below:

[Richard] Sackler’s comments at the party and his email are contained in newly public portions of a lawsuit filed by the state of Massachusetts against Purdue that alleges that the company, the Sackler family, and company executives misled prescribers and patients as they aimed to blanket the country with prescriptions for their addictive medications. …

The new filing also reveals how Purdue aggressively pursued tight relationships with Tufts University’s Health Sciences Campus and Massachusetts General Hospital — two of the state’s premier academic medical centers — to expand prescribing by physicians, generate goodwill toward opioid painkillers among medical students and doctors in training, and combat negative reports about opioid addiction.

Under an agreement with Mass. General, Purdue has paid the hospital $3 million since 2009 and was allowed to propose “areas where education in the field of pain is needed” and “curriculum which might meet such needs,” the court document shows. Tufts made a Purdue employee an adjunct associate professor in 2011, Purdue-written materials were approved for teaching to Tufts students in 2014, and the company sent staff to Tufts as recently as 2017, the complaint says. Purdue’s New England staff was congratulated for “penetrating this account.” …

Healey’s office sued Purdue, current and former executives, and members of the Sackler family in June. In December, it filed an amended complaint that was nearly 200 pages longer than the June filing, with more allegations spelled out against the individual defendants. …

The state’s suit focuses on Purdue’s actions since 2007, when the company and three current and former executives pleaded guilty in federal court to fraudulently marketing OxyContin and the company agreed to pay $600 million in fines. The case is separate from litigation being waged by STAT to obtain sealed Purdue documents in Kentucky, including the only known deposition of Richard Sackler, about the company’s marketing practices in earlier years, which have been blamed for seeding the current opioid addiction crisis.

“Seeding” involves creating conditions favorable to the success of the product. As Sarah Dauer Littman notes in this November 2017 Alternet article, “the super wealthy OxyContin family supports school privatization with tactics similar to those that fueled the opioid epidemic”– by financing a spectrum of necessary components to bolster success.

One can see evidence of such a practice in the school choice funding of Jonathan Sackler, since 2002 by far the principal donor to a nonprofit for which he and his wife, Mary Corson, are for most years the only board members: the Bouncer Foundation (EIN 35-4119735). (As a nonprofit with “private foundation” (PF) designation, the Bouncer Foundation is required to identify any contributor who gives $5,000 or more. Only Sackler names are listed.)

At the end of this post, I link to Bouncer Foundation tax forms from 2001 to 2017, all of which can also be accessed via this ProPublica link. In the remainder of this post, I highlight some key information, primarily school choice-related but also some otherwise, from those 18 years of Bouncer Foundation tax filings.

First of all, the Sackler family had been profiting from OxyContin since its arrival on the Purdue Pharma scene in 1995; this means that the money Jonathan Sackler and his family members used to fund his Bouncer Foundation, which received nonprofit status in October 2000, has been money associated with Purdue Pharma sales of OxyContin.

There really is no way around the reality that money from Jonathan Sackler is money made from America’s opioid crisis– a Sackler-manufactured-and-nurtured crisis, at that.

Below is how much money Jonathan Sackler (and once, in 2001, from Raymond Sackler) contributed to his Bouncer Foundation for each year, from 2001 to 2017. Note that for each year, no other major, $5,000+ donors contributed. Note also the notable increase in the annual amount of Jonathan Sackler’s cash donations from 2011 to 2017:

Total Cash and Noncash Donations to Bouncer Foundation, 2001-2017

  • 2001: $30,000 from Raymond Sackler
  • 2002: $154,917 (and all the rest listed below) from Jonathan Sackler, all in assorted stocks (note that return includes a typo total is reported as $154,417, but stock listing totals $154,917)
  • 2003: $149,750, $99,750 of which was in assorted stocks
  • 2004: $876,269, $446,269 of which was in assorted stocks
  • 2005: $179,101, $99,101 of which was in assorted stocks
  • 2006: $15,000
  • 2007: $61,721, including $56,985 in “public securities”
  • 2008: $221,000
  • 2009: $381,325
  • 2010: $448,000
  • 2011: $1,083,000
  • 2012: $690,163
  • 2013: $1,263,446
  • 2014: $2,605,000
  • 2015: $2,905,000
  • 2016: $8,212,500
  • 2017: $10,052,722, including $1,052,722 in “securities–publicly-traded”

Below are notable contributions that Jonathan Sackler’s Bouncer Foundation made from 2001 to 2017, most of which concern Sackler’s efforts to promote charter schools and to foster the ed-reform-friendly atmosphere necessary to charter school expansion. (Sackler also made donations to other orgs outside of ed reform for many of these years. Feel free to dive deeper into such exploration by accessing the Bouncer Foundation tax forms linked at the end of this post.)

In the listing below, I offer some brief commentary and some links to help inform readers about certain ed-reform orgs and interconnections; however, I won’t pretend for a moment that what I offer is exhaustive.

Once Sackler’s personal cash donations to his Bouncer Foundation exceeded the million-dollar mark (2013, with a profound jump from 2015 to 2016), his donating to increasingly more charter-choice-nurturing organizations also markedly increased.

2003

  • In 2003, Bouncer Foundation made its first contribution to a charter school: $50,000 to Amistad Academy in New Haven, CT (which has been in the news in January 2019 for severe discipline, among other issues).

2004

  • The next year, in 2004, Bouncer Foundation expanded its school choice contributions, including to another Jonathan Sackler nonprofit, this one ed-reform-centered: $250,000 to “CT Coalition for Achievement No Interlocking Directorate,” renamed “CT Coalition for Achievement Now” (CONNCAN), created by Sackler in 2005. (For those interested, here is CONNCAN’s 2006-07 annual report.)

The term, “interlocking directorate,” refers to the same individuals serving on multiple boards of directors or one on company’s board and another company’s management. According to Investopedia, the practice is against the law “in specific instances wherein they gave a few board members outsized control over an industry.”

Ironic that a Sackler would protest “outsized control over an industry.”

  • Other 2004 Bouncer Foundation ed reform donations include Black Alliance for Education Options (BAEO) ($30,000) and Alliance for School Choice ($50,000), and the largest donation, $365,000 to Amistad Academy (CT).

2005

  • Philanthropy Roundtable (“America’s leading network of charitable donors working to strengthen our free society, uphold donor intent…”) $5,000
  • Amistad Academy (CT; charter school) $20,000

2006

  • Philanthropy Roundtable $5,000

2007

  • X Prize Foundation $54,759 (not an ed-reform org; the only 2007 grantee– a quiet year for Sackler’s Bouncer Foundation)

2008

  • Philanthropy Roundtable $5,000
  • Codman Academy Foundation (MA; charter school) $2,000
  • Alliance for School Choice $10,000
  • Black Alliance for Education Options (now defunct) $25,000

2009

Richard S. Sackler, M.D., and his brother, Jonathan Sackler, joined forces in 2009 to create a $3 million endowment establishing the new professorship, expressly intended to be held by those appointed as director of Yale Cancer Center (YCC). Richard Sackler, co-chairman of Stamford-based Purdue Pharma and adjunct professor of genetics at Rockefeller University, serves on YCC’s Advisory Board and the Yale School of Medicine’s Dean’s Council. He and his wife, Beth, head the Richard and Beth Sackler Foundation. Jonathan Sackler and his wife, Mary Corson, lead the Stamford-based Bouncer Foundation.

  • Philanthropy Roundtable $10,000
  • Black Alliance for Education Options (now defunct) $56,500

2010

  • Philanthropy Roundtable $10,000
  • Yale University (endowed professorship) $300,000
  • University of California, Berkeley (Bouncer endowment) $50,000
  • University of Washington )”UWB Sackler fund for CRPE (Center for Reinventing Public Education) school district program” $50,000

2011

  • Philanthropy Roundtable $10,000
  • Alliance for School Choice $5,000
  • Yale University (endowed professorship) $300,000
  • Lagniappe Project of New Orleans (“to create, develop, manage, operate, guide, direct, promote and support Louisiana public charter schools and medical facilities for parents and families of school children and staff at such schools”) $500,000
  • Students for Education Reform (astroturf student network on college campuses) $100,000

2012

  • Yale University (endowed professorship) $300,000
  • Alliance for School Choice $5,000
  • Philanthropy Roundtable $10,000

2013

  • Bouncer Foundation begins paying Impact for Education for “philanthropic advice” ($98,750); Impact for Education’s president and founder is Alex Johnston, co-founder and former CEO of CONNCAN. Johnston also serves on the CRPE advisory board. (No interlocking directorate….)
  • Yale University (endowed professorship) $300,000
  • Booker T Washington Academy (CT; charter school) $7,500
  • Students for Education Reform (astroturf student network on college campuses) $100,000
  • Public Policy Center of Mississippi (supports school choice) $10,000
  • New Schools Venture Fund $100,000
  • Philanthropy Roundtable $10,000
  • CONNCAN $240,000
  • 50CAN (Sackler and Alex Johnston both on board of directors)
  • Achievement First (CT; charter school chain; in the news in Rhode Island on February 28, 2019, for Sackler’s donation of opioid-connected millions) $151,571
  • Northeast Charter Schools Network (NY) $150,000

2014

  • Impact for Education (philanthropic advice) $130,454
  • Students for Education Reform $100,000
  • Philanthropy Roundtable $10,000
  • CONN CAN $200,000
  • Families for Excellent Schools (now-defunct charter school advocacy org) $1,083,333
  • Northeast Charter Schools Network (NY) $150,000
  • Philadelphia School Partnership (not only school choice, but notable school choice support) $25,000
  • Civic Builders (NY; charter school facility support) $50,000

2015

  • Impact for Education (philanthropic advice) $90,000
  • New Schools Venture Fund, approved for future payment: 667,000, $333,000 of which was disbursed in 2015
  • Students for Education Reform $25,000
  • Philanthropy Roundtable, $10,000
  • 50 CAN, $300,000
  • Achievement First (CT; charter school chain) $250,000
  • Northeast Charter Schools Network (NY), $150,000
  • Families for Excellent Schools (now-defunct charter advocacy org), $300,000
  • KIPP Foundation, $10,000
  • Capital Preparatory Schools, Inc. (CT; charter school chain) $250,000
  • FaithActs for Education (grass roots org in CT– with Alex Johnston on its board) $300,000
  • Partnership for Educational Justice (Campbell Brown’s now defunct union-busting, lawsuit-manufacturing nonprofit; see here for more) $200,000
  • Summit Public Schools (CA; charter school chain) $25,000
  • Oakland Public Education Fund (CA; supports both direct-run and charter schools) $5,000
  • Match Foundation (MA; charter school chain) $25,000
  • Students First Institute (CA) $40,000
  • Education Reform Now (NY; related to Democrats for Ed Reform, DFER) $250,000
  • New Beginnings Family Academy (CT; charter school) $10,000
  • Harlem Lacrosse Leadership Corp. (NY; charter school) $10,000
  • Excel Bridgeport (CT; grass roots org no longer around; see 2015 archived web site here) $25,000
  • Booker T Washington Academy (CT; charter school) $150,000
  • Teach for America, $25,000
  • Innovate Public Schools (CA; community organizing nonprofit) $10,000

2016

2017

  • Impact for Education (philanthropic advice) $262,500
  • Students for Education Reform $25,000
  • Philanthropy Roundtable $10,000
  • 50 CAN $300,000
  • Achievement First (CT; charter school chain) $350,000
  • Northeast Charter Schools Network (NY) $150,000
  • Families for Excellent Schools (now-defunct charter advocacy org) $333,000
  • Capital Preparatory Schools, Inc. (CT; charter school chain) $250,000
  • FaithActs for Education $200,000
  • StudentsFirst Institute (CA; “acquired” by 50 CAN) $100,000
  • Education Reform Now (NY; related to DFER) $50,000
  • Great Oaks Charter School (CT) $100,000
  • Booker T Washington Academy (CT; charter school) $150,000
  • Teach for America $25,000
  • The 74 Media $50,000
  • Institute of Justice $30,000
  • Yankee Institute of Public Policy $125,000
  • Relay Graduate School (“deans” closely tied with Teach for America) $50,000
  • CONN CAN $250,000

And we’re done.

Once Sackler exceeded the million-dollar donation mark to his Bouncer Foundation– and once he began paying fellow ed-reformer, Alex Johnston’s Impact for Education for “philanthropic advice”– Sackler began to noticeably diversify his funding of a spectrum of school choice supports, including charter school funding, charter school facilities, charter chains in other states, grass roots orgs, charter temp teaching force, litigation orgs to advance school choice and weaken unions, sympathetic policy and lobbying orgs, school-choice-friendly media.

What I also noticed is that a number of the ed reform orgs that Sackler once supported are now either out of commission or absorbed by other entities (e.g., Families for Excellent Schools, Black Alliance for Education Options, StudentsFirst, Partnership for Educational Justice, Excel Bridgeport). Still, that does not mean that Sackler is not ready to offer his OxyContin-derived bucks to help re-form reform. Consider this May 11, 2018, Chalkbeat article, entitled, “Two Former Staff Members at Families for Excellent Schools Planning a New Pro-Charter Org”:

Two former top staffers at the recently shuttered Families for Excellent Schools are working to start a new pro-charter advocacy group, according to multiple sources with knowledge of their plans.

Reshma Singh, who was the chief growth officer at Families for Excellent Schools, and Sean Andersen, who was its chief program officer, are leading the new effort. And while the scope and approach of their new organization are still unclear, the connections the pair have to the education reform world suggest the group’s impact will be felt even as it faces tough political headwinds in some states.

The group is being incubated at 50CAN, an education advocacy group with a presence in several states and where Andersen and Singh are currently employees.

According to Singh’s Linkedin bio, prior to her time with now-inoperative Families for Excellent Schools, Singh was the founding executive director of another nonfunctioning ed reform nonprofit,  Partnership for Educational Justice.

Is the third time the charm?

According to her Linkedin bio, Singh’s new org is P.A.C.E. Education Strategies, designed to boost the grass-rootsiness of ed reform. From PACE’s web site:

We believe the key to upward mobility in America is a great education. But today, more than sixty years after Brown v. Board of Education, access to a quality education is still determined by a student’s race, income, and zip code.

Despite these persistent challenges, there are bright spots all across the country. There are innovative public schools run by dedicated and visionary leaders that are preparing thousands of students for college and a successful life. There are parent-led organizations fighting for opportunity in their communities.

These leaders give us hope. But they face so many barriers that can keep their work from succeeding. Whether it’s an entrenched political opposition or the devastating impact of apathy from those in power, creating bold educational change can feel like rolling a boulder uphill.

That’s why we exist – to help local leaders who are fighting to change the status quo in our education system. And by doing so, we will move towards a nation where every child has access to a great public school.

Of the services PACE offers, one has to do with research– specifically, using research to, uh, “shape the policy and political debate”:

We shape the policy and political debate by developing original research in support of our partners’ goals.

It might be difficult to shape that policy debate if your new money stream is already opioid-tainted.

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But enough for now.

Below are Sackler’s Bouncer Foundation tax forms (2001 – 2017):

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Interested in scheduling Mercedes Schneider for a speaking engagement? Click here.

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Want to read about the history of charter schools and vouchers?

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Schneider is a southern Louisiana native, career teacher, trained researcher, and author of two other books: A Chronicle of Echoes: Who’s Who In the Implosion of American Public Education and Common Core Dilemma: Who Owns Our Schools?. You should buy these books. They’re great. No, really.

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8 Comments
  1. Same Old Formula. People with no real value of their own find ways to insert themselves in the pipeline between people who have a need and people who serve that need — then they feed off their power to squat on the valve. And if there is not enough natural need for them to profit off it — then they look for ways to create artificial needs in people. And they feed and feed and feed off people’s needs.

  2. Peggy Schwarz permalink

    Wow! Another reason to despise the Sacklers! I sure do hope that the Sackler family members will face real justice although I seriously doubt it.

  3. George Peterman permalink

    One other group that Sackler funded and ran out of his office at Purdue Pharma was ConnAD, a 501(c)4 sister organization for ConnCAN. A decade or so back I investigated these guys a bit when they became vocal in the New Haven area and wrote a few articles for a local paper. ConnAD sent out glossy mailers with pictures of sad, pathetic looking minority kids, attacking public schools and teachers. I called the number for both of these and one of their other organizations and – surprise! – all were based in Jonathan Sackler’s office. His secretary spoke with me for a few minutes and acknowledged it was the base for a handful of the groups reported. Kind of curious, no? I had a series of exchanges with Alex Johnston, who brazenly wrote (I still have his messages saved) “I know who the real heroes are!” So a highly paid shill for a group of wealthy people who really have no vested interest in the education or welfare of minority students in CT, who are pumping huge sums of money into attacking educators and public schools is the hero and savior of those poor children! That’s some arrogant posturing! He, of course, left to develop 50 CAN.

    So a whole host of shady organizations were based out of Sackler’s office when all of this and Achievement First and others were organizing the broader effort to undermine local control and the rights and dignity of public schools teachers. They were all connected to former Governor Dan Malloy and his education commissioner Stefan Pryor. The entire enterprise is so incestuous it is mind-blowing. And as soon as one group falls out of favor, they pick a few of the principal figures and open another cleverly-named organization designed to keep up the fight for privatization and vouchers.

    I attended a Q and A session at Wilbur Cross High School in New Haven when all of this was coming to a head after Malloy had picked Pryor, a lawyer who was one of the founders of Achievement First I happened to sit in the same area as a large group of young students AF had brought down for show, all wearing the school provided t-shirts. One of the officers of AF was coaching these kids – 5-12 year-olds it appeared, on how to respond to speakers, If one of their people was chosen to ask a question, they were to applaud and cheer vigorously. If it weren’t one of theirs, they were to remain silent. How nice to use children as political props, but that’s what they all do, right Eva Moskowitz?

    I could go on, but this public school teacher has planning to write and papers to critique. We are not the lazy people who, according to Malloy, “Go home for the summer, come back in September and do the same thing over and over again.” We actually work nights, weekends, and yes – during the summer too. Stefan Pryor, by the way, is now Secretary of Commerce for the state of Rhode Island, more evidence that these people are business-minded and have no place directing educational policy.

  4. Laura H. Chapman permalink

    This is another amazing expose of horrible consequences of making profits by addicting people to a drug, sequestering excess profits in efforts to kill public education, and trying to shore up the family reputation by giving money to support art museums and other “cutural institutions.” Mercedes, your are one ….of a researcher.

Trackbacks & Pingbacks

  1. Mercedes Schneider Tracks the Sackler Billions and Support for Charter Schools | Diane Ravitch's blog
  2. Campbell Brown’s Union-Busting Org, Partnership for Ed Justice, Is Dead. | deutsch29
  3. As Purdue Pharma Settles Oklahoma Lawsuit, Those Receiving Sackler Money Need to Make a Decision | deutsch29

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