Since a definition of bribery is the "offering, giving, receiving, or soliciting of something of value for the purpose of influencing the action of an official in the discharge of his or her public or legal duties," isn't it bribery on the part of the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation to make an offer of $250,000 to states provided that they meet eight criteria, including a commitment to the common standards effort and the ability to link student data to teachers?  --  Sam Smith asked the question Thursday.  --  "If you or I did something like this, even at an infinitesimally smaller scale, we could likely be headed for prison.  It is a criminal act to use money to influence official positions in such a manner."[1]  --  And what do the states think about this?  --  The article Smith quoted also included this:  "Not all the states are willing to discuss the help from Gates or their applications for the federal grants.  In more than half a dozen states, education officials did not return phone calls seeking interviews about the applications.  Those who receive money from the Gates Foundation often are reluctant to talk about their work for fear of upsetting their benefactor."[2]  --  COMMENT:  If they talked, states would doubtless say that officials have not profited.  --  But law.jrank.org reports that "American statutes differ in that some treat a bribe as any 'benefit,' thereby including nonpecuniary favors, whereas others restrict the term to pecuniary benefits." ...


1.

IS THE GATES FOUNDATION INVOLVED IN BRIBERY?

By Sam Smith

Undernews
July 22, 2010

http://prorevnews.blogspot.com/2010/07/is-gates-foundation-involved-in-bribery.html


An online legal dictionary defines bribery this way:

"The offering, giving, receiving, or soliciting of something of value for the purpose of influencing the action of an official in the discharge of his or her public or legal duties."

When we think of bribery we usually envision a check or cash being passed on the sly to public officials.  But what if it is right out in the open, concealed only by the fact that the briber is a foundation created by Bill Gates rather than some back street shyster?

Here is how a news story describes it: "Now the foundation is taking unprecedented steps to influence education policy, spending millions to influence how the federal government distributes $5 billion in grants to overhaul public schools.  The federal dollars are unprecedented, too. President Barack Obama persuaded Congress to give him the money as part of the economic stimulus so he could try new ideas to fix an education system that most agree is failing.  The foundation is offering $250,000 apiece to help states apply, so long as they agree with the foundation's approach."

If you or I did something like this, even at an infinitesimally smaller scale, we could likely be headed for prison. It is a criminal act to use money to influence official positions in such a manner.

And it gets worse, as the story related: "Duncan's inner circle includes two former Gates employees. His chief of staff is Margot Rogers, who was special assistant to Gates' education director. James Shelton, assistant deputy secretary, was a program director for Gates' education division. . .The administration has waived ethics rules to allow Rogers and Shelton to deal more freely with the foundation, but Rogers said she talks infrequently with her former colleagues."

This is even before one considers broadly understood restrictions on political lobbying by non-profits. But then who needs to bother with lobbying if you can just deliver the cash and get your way?

A particularly gross example of this upscale, and so far legal, bribery was revealed by Bill Turgue, in the Washington Post in April:

"The private foundations pledging to help finance raises and bonuses for D.C. teachers have placed themselves in the middle of the city's mayoral race with one of the conditions for their largesse: If Schools Chancellor Michelle A. Rhee leaves, so could the money.

"The private donors have told the District that they reserve the right to reconsider their $64.5 million pledge if leadership of the school system changes. . .

"Should the foundations pull their funding after the agreement is finalized, the District could be liable for at least $21 million -- the amount of private money earmarked to pay teacher salaries. . .

The leadership condition [is] set out in letters to District officials from the Walton Family Foundation, the Robertson Foundation, the Laura and John Arnold Foundation and the Broad Foundation."

On a national scale, we have the unprecedented and increasing control of national education by a foundation created by a single billionaire. The thing driving these standards is not wisdom or public choice but the money:

"I think the reality of it is the Gates Foundation has been the major funder of the national standards and the three major reports on which the Massachusetts recommendation is based are funded by Gates. It's a little like being judge and jury," said Jamie Gass, director of the Center for Education Reform at the Pioneer Institute.

Wrote Matt Murphy in the Lowell Sun:


|||| The Gates Foundation since January 2008 has awarded more than $35 million to the Council of Chief School Officers and the National Governors Association Center for Best Practices, the two main organizations charged with drafting and promoting common standards.


In the run-up to his recommendation, Chester told the Board of Elementary and Secondary Education that he would base his decision on analysis being done by his staff, as well as independent reports prepared by three state and national education research firms -- Achieve, Inc., The Fordham Institute, and the Massachusetts Business Alliance for Education.


Achieve, Inc., a Washington, D.C.-based education-reform organization, received $12.6 million from the Gates Foundation in February 2008, according to data provided to the Washington Post by the foundation.


The Fordham Institute has accepted more than $1.4 million from the Gates Foundation, including nearly $960,000 to conduct Common Core reviews.||||

If an individual were to influence governmental decisions with this sort of money, it would be clearly a criminal offense. Why should it be any different for a foundation?

Gates has opened the door to an manifestly corrupt approach to government where a handful of well funded groups and individuals override the democratic legislative process by the prospect of funding or the threat of losing it. If you can't go to jail now for doing this, there should be laws that make it clear that you do from here on out.

2.

GATES' LARGESSE SWAYS GOVERNMENT SPENDING

By Libby Quaid and Donna Blankinship

Associated Press
October 25, 2009

http://www.seattlepi.com/local/411523_gates26.html


WASHINGTON -- The real secretary of education, the joke goes, is Bill Gates.

The Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation has been the biggest player by far in the school reform movement, spending around $200 million a year on grants to elementary and secondary education.

Now the foundation is taking unprecedented steps to influence education policy, spending millions to influence how the federal government distributes $5 billion in grants to overhaul public schools.

The federal dollars are unprecedented, too.

President Barack Obama persuaded Congress to give him the money as part of the economic stimulus so he could try new ideas to fix an education system that most agree is failing.  The foundation is offering $250,000 apiece to help states apply, so long as they agree with the foundation's approach.

Obama and the Gates Foundation share some goals that not everyone embraces:  paying teachers based on student test scores, among other measures of achievement; charter schools that operate independently of local school boards; and a set of common academic standards adopted by every state.

Some argue that a private foundation like Gates shouldn't partner with the government.

"When you team up with the government, you compromise your ability to be critical of the government, and sometimes you compromise your ability to do controversial and maybe unpopular things with your money," said Chester E. Finn Jr., president of the Thomas B. Fordham Institute, an education think tank.  The institute, is among the many that have received money from the Gates Foundation.

Another concern is that as a private foundation, Gates doesn't have to disclose the details of its spending like the government does.

The big teachers' unions dispute some of the goals shared by Obama and the foundation.  They say student achievement is much more than a score on a standardized test and that it's a mistake to rely so heavily on charter schools.

"Despite growing evidence to the contrary, it appears the administration has decided that charter schools are the only answer to what ails America's public schools," the National Education Association, the largest teachers' union, said in comments about the grant competition submitted to the Education Department.

The NEA added:  "We should not continue the unhealthy focus on standardized tests as the primary evidence of student success."

The American Federation of Teachers submitted similar comments.  Together the unions have 4.6 million members.

Education Secretary Arne Duncan welcomes the foundation's involvement.

"The more all of us are in the game of reform, the more all of us are pushing for dramatic improvement, the better," Duncan said in an interview with the Associated Press.

Duncan's inner circle includes two former Gates employees.  His chief of staff is Margot Rogers, who was special assistant to Gates' education director.  James Shelton, assistant deputy secretary, was a program director for Gates' education division.

Rogers said she joined the administration because she was inspired by its goals for helping kids graduate from high school and finish college.

The administration has waived ethics rules to allow Rogers and Shelton to deal more freely with the foundation, but Rogers said she talks infrequently with her former colleagues.

Bill Gates said his foundation is not the government's partner in the new grant program, which the government has called the "Race to the Top."

"It's no secret the U.S. education system is failing," Gates said.  "We're doing all kinds of experiments that are different.  The Race To The Top is going to do many different ones.  There's no group-think."

Gates stepped away last year from his daily role at Microsoft, the software company he co-founded, to focus on the work of his foundation.

Vicki Phillips, the Gates Foundation's director of education, said it originally offered help to states and school districts that it was working with and that are in agreement with many of the foundation's goals.  She said the foundation shares Obama's priorities and sees itself as part of a larger reform effort.

The foundation's rising profile comes as the recession has gutted state and local budgets, which spend more money on education -- roughly 35 percent -- than anything else.  Many states and districts can't keep all their teachers on the payroll, let alone spend money on a high-stakes application for federal money that includes some 44 pages of rules.

In Minnesota, more than a dozen education department staffers are working with consultants from the McKinsey & Co. global consulting firm to prepare the state's application, using about $250,000 in Gates Foundation money, spokesman Bill Walsh said.

When the foundation offered to help states apply for the grant money, it initially offered the $250,000 to only 15 states.

Officials in other states complained when they learned of the plan.  The governors and chief school officers groups pressed the foundation to expand its offer, and it has now agreed to help any state that meets eight criteria, including a commitment to the common standards effort and the ability to link student data to teachers.

The foundation also is helping some districts that are eligible for a share of the money if they are working in partnership with nonprofits such as the Gates Foundation.

Not all the states are willing to discuss the help from Gates or their applications for the federal grants.  In more than half a dozen states, education officials did not return phone calls seeking interviews about the applications.

Those who receive money from the Gates Foundation often are reluctant to talk about their work for fear of upsetting their benefactor.

--Blankinship reported from Seattle. AP Education Writer Justin Pope contributed to this report from Charlotte, N.C.