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About Gates’ New, Lobbying Nonprofit: Don’t Kid Yourself. Bill Gates Already Lobbies.

June 17, 2019

On June 13, 2019, The Hill published a piece about billionaire Bill Gates’ intention to start a lobbying nonprofit.

Whereas the idea of Gates paying individuals to lobby to alter policy in line with his billionaire preferences is new, the public should realize that Gates’ oversized influence on legislators and other elected and appointed officials is not.

For example, from 2002 to 2018, the Gates Foundation has paid the National Governors Association (NGA) $33.2M for Gates-approved initiatives, mostly affecting K12 education.

Shall we pretend that Gates’ steadily funding an association of state governors to promote Gates goals does not sway these governors? I think not.

From 2002 to 2018, Gates has also paid $122M to the state education superintendent organization, Council of Chief State School Officers (CCSSO) on his K12 education preferences.

Both NGA and CCSSO were key organizations in promoting Common Core (see here and here, for example). Common Core is a Gates pet; he has been shelling out his billionaire bucks on it for years, even trying to tie it to the Every Student Succeeds Act (ESSA).

Gates has even paid grants to the US Department of Education: $858M (2013 – 2016). Wrap your mind around that one.

But there’s more.

From 2013 to 2016, Gates paid $1.8M to the National Conference of State Legislatures. The largest grant ($1.2M in 2015) was “to support education of state policymakers.”

In 2009, Gates stood before them and, as National Conference for State Legislatures “co-chair,” he told them what he wanted, as excerpted below from my March 20, 2014 post, which also references my March 17, 2014, post about Gates dining with 80 senators:

On March 13, 2014, Bill Gates had dinner with 80 senators and other elected officials. Given his keynote the following day to members of the National Board of Professional Teaching Standards (NBPTS), make no mistake that Gates used his time with the senators and other officials to push the Common Core State Standards (CCSS).

However, Gates is more than CCSS. Gates is the entire spectrum of reforms, and he is more than willing to use his influence to promote his opinion of educational reform to those supposedly elected By the People.

The following text is an excerpt from Gates’ 2009, speech to the National Council of State Legislatures, which “co-chair” Gates offered as part of his complete speech on so-called education reform.

The entire speech is worth a sobering read:

I hope you decide to accelerate reform.

The institutions and innovations that are getting great outcomes should be expanded. Those that aren’t should be changed or ended.

To do this, we need to measure what matters. …

Without measurement, there is no pressure for improvement. …

I would urge the legislators here (with colleges) to start the push to greater measurement by asking the colleges and universities in your districts to publish their graduation rates. …

Caps should be lifted for charter school operators who have a proven record of success—and charters should be offered the same per-pupil funding as other public schools. As you know, a relatively small percentage of schools are responsible for a high percentage of the dropouts. We can make dramatic advances by replacing the worst schools with high-performing charters —operated by organizations with a great track record. …

(“Great track record” = high test scores)

Charter schools, in my view, have been the lead researchers in the most important recent finding in the field of school reform. Namely: The most decisive factor in student achievement is the teacher. …

No factor advances student achievement more than an effective teacher. So a true reformer will be obsessed with one question: “What changes will improve the quality of teaching, so every student can have an effective teacher?”

We need to take two enabling steps: we need longitudinal data systems that track student performance and are linked to the teacher; and we need fewer, clearer, higher standards that are common from state to state. The standards will tell the teachers what their students are supposed to learn, and the data will tell them whether they’re learning it. …

Fortunately, the state-led Common Core State Standards Initiative is developing clear, rigorous common standards that match the best in the world. Last month, 46 Governors and Chief State School Officers made a public commitment to embrace these common standards.

This is encouraging—but identifying common standards is not enough. We’ll know we’ve succeeded when the curriculum and the tests are aligned to these standards. …

If your state doesn’t join the common standards, your kids will be left behind; and if too many states opt out—the country will be left behind. 

And more about Gates dining with 80 senators in March 2014:

Bill Gates has too much power.

The following announcement, dated March 13, 2014, is from Politico:

DINNER WITH GATES – About 80 senators are expected to attend a dinner discussion at the Capitol tonight with Microsoft founder Bill Gates and the NYT’s David Brooks. The 6:45 p.m. dinner, according to an invitation obtained by Huddle, is sponsored by the No Labels Foundation, and one of that group’s honorary co-chairs, Sen. Joe Manchin, will make opening remarks. So what’s the No Labels-Microsoft connection? No Labels co-founder Nancy Jacobson is married to longtime pollster Mark Penn, executive vice president and chief strategy officer at Microsoft, said a source who will be attending the event. 

Make no mistake: Gates has been lobbying for years.

It is true that with a formal lobbying nonprofit, Gates is paying more voices to advocate for his own policy wants, and through his foundation, he is able to offer the money to back it. A ready funding source can prove quite the enticement to the legislator who likes the sound of “I supported that initiative and brought Gates funds to may state by doing so.”

Not a new story, but one that is potentially magnified with a Gates lobbying nonprofit.

bill gates shrug

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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?

School Choice: The End of Public Education? 

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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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Don’t care to buy from Amazon? Purchase my books from Powell’s City of Books instead.

6 Comments
  1. Linda permalink

    What’s described could make for interesting case law. Are government employee associations considered lobbyists when they get external funding, refer to their activity as lobbying and, sway legislators toward an agenda set by foundation(s), etc., a situation where the foundation is one and the same with the funder?
    BTH- We all know Federalist Society judges would twist into pretzels to render a decision
    favorable to the foundations of the wealthy e.g. Citizens United.

    The situation of an organization like SETDA (State Education Technology Directors Association) could prove interesting. Gates funds the group. The public employees as a collective govern SETDA. The organization has private, “Gold, Silver, Event and Strategic partners”. The organization’s stated goals are to promote digital learning and public-private partnerships. A former SETDA director said in an interview the group lobbies.

    If an organization like SETDA was found to have acted as an unregistered lobbyist in a local, state or federal jurisdiction and was fined (as example, the Chicago Ethics Ordinance describes as lobbying, a single phone call, a single e-mail from a person, acting within his job duties, to influence legislative or administrative action), who would pay the fine? Would it be the public employees whose association has a person on payroll lobbying as part of his job or, the organization’s funder or, the organization’s private partners?

  2. Laura H .Chapman permalink

    I had some of the same observations. See my comments on Diane’s blog, where this initiative was first mentioned. https://dianeravitch.net/2019/06/17/bill-melinda-gates-launch-a-political-lobbying-organization-to-wield-greater-influence/#comments

    In my opinion, the Gates Policy Initiative is timed to amplify his voice and visibility, much like a brand. (He is the public face of the B&MG’s interest in education.)
    I think he is out of steam on preK-12 interventions. He is getting criticized for failures by others in the non-profit world.

    In particular, I know he wants to influence the pending reauthorization of the Higher Education Act so it will offer proofs of the economic value (or not) of various postsecondary programs.

    He has been working on this since 2012, and in tandem with the Lumina Foundation where the primary interest is in competency-based post-secondary education.

    Gates (like Lumina) and almost every online vendor of instruction wants personally identifiable information (PII) from cradle to workforce employment and income.

    In particular Gates wants to influence the reauthorized Higher Education Act, making sure that it repeals the prohibition against the creation of any student unit record system with personally identifiable information (PII).

    A bill cosponsored by Elizabeth Warren and 19 others (bi-partisan) comes close to the Gates wishlist, with an immediate repeal of that prohibition and a four-year period before any restoration might be required. In the meantime, student records with PII could be linked with other federal information containing the same PII, including the IRS for earnings, student loan offices, VA offices, Department of Defense and others.

    There are other and interrelated reasons for the timing of a new and official Gates Policy lobby shop. I am working on making these reasons clear enough for a blog post.

    • Linda permalink

      You’ve clearly identified a significant threat.

  3. Linda permalink

    The Gates’ PR machine was in overdrive this spring. Two puff piece interviews with Saint Melinda were published, one in Town and Country (the magazine is a tool of the rich) and, the other in Oprah Winfrey’s magazine.

    Interestingly, in the fawning T&C piece, Melinda didn’t mention the oligarchy that she and Bill run in U.S. education.
    Melinda and Bill are truly clueless people. “When you are pushing…you have to be willing to fail…we don’t always know the right tactics …they’re not all going to work…”. She’s blasé about the fact that B&M don’t pay the cost of their failures. The recipients of their failed largesse pay the costs.

    Melinda quoted advice from Pres. Carter, “Anything you do has has to be owned by the local people.” Then, why is the Gates’ education tyranny imperially imposed? Clearly Carter’s advice went into the void between Melinda’s ears. And, Melinda further opined, “Great wealth can inflate and distort your sense of self…”. Again, she’s clueless in recognizing the fault in herself and Bill. (BTW, she attended an all-girls Catholic high school where evidently she learned anti-democracy paternalism.)

    But, the following incident is the most egregious example. Melinda felt compelled to correct her clueless husband when he dismissed the local cultural problems associated with family planning. His cavalier response, “contraceptives are already stocked in”. He meant condoms. The African women told Melinda that their husbands reject use of condoms. Really, that info was an epiphany for the past middle age, Mr. and Mrs. Gates, living in their rarefied environment?

Trackbacks & Pingbacks

  1. Mercedes Schneider: Bill Gates Has Been Spending Millions to Buy Influence for Years | Diane Ravitch's blog
  2. About Gates’ New, Lobbying Nonprofit: Don’t Kid Yourself. Bill Gates Already Lobbies. — deutsch29 – Nonpartisan Education Group

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