The Story of Pro-charter Money in the 2014 Election
This is the story of how pro-charter money entered the WCCUSD school board race in 2014.
Summary: In 2014, the Chamberlins and the California Charter Schools Association Advocates Independent Expenditure Committee together spent a combined $650,000 to control the outcome of the election for WCCUSD Board members. More than 90% of that money was provided as independent expenditures to support and oppose candidates. Click here for summary spreadsheet
As you review the timeline and these documents, contemplate a couple of things:
1) Education Matters (the Chamberlins’ pro-charter PAC) gave $350,000 and John Scully gave $465,000 to the California Charter Schools Association Advocates Independent Expenditure Committee on April 21st, 201 and March 8th, 2016 respectively. See http://www.electiontrack.com/lookup.html?committee=1339522
2) Valerie Cuevas and several long-time district critics have called for a limit to individual donations to board campaigns of $1,000. It has no bearing on independent expenditures.
A local PAC forms, called “Parents for Better Education,” for the purpose of opposing Measure H, which was a bond measure to continue the district-wide building program. Unsurprisingly, the PAC founders were district critics of the Bond program. See 20140522_Form465_ParentsForBetterEducation_OpposeMeasureH5.6K.pdf
The contributors fell into the same category, a subset of members of the Citizens’ Bond Oversight Committee. Their combined expenditure against Measure H was about $8,000, with most of the money coming from the Chamberlins ($1,000) and the California Charter School Association ($5,000).
Spoiler alert – it was not in vain – the measure was soundly defeated.
Liz Block is supported by James Koshland, a Silicon Valley attorney, Education Matters (the local organization that is connected with Steve Chamberlin), and a Layfayette business called, “Interstate Storage.” See
Valerie Cuevas is supported by all three of those that Block was supported by, plus Honor PAC (a Los Angeles organization) and the mysterious 860 Harbor Way LLC, which has a distinctly Richmond name, but is listed on the filing form as “Lafayette”. See 20140911_Form497_860HarborWayLLC_Support_Cuevas1.5K.pdf
At this point, it appears from the filings to date, that we’re just dealing with smallish contributions. Not that many of us can write $1,000 and $2,500 checks to a political campaign, but it was within the scale of previous election cycles in the area. And the Education Matters support to Cuevas was “In Kind,” meaning it was time or services, not money.
Cuevas and Block both receive hefty but “normal” individual donations from both Stephen Chamberlin and Susan Chamberlin -- $2,500. See
And then, Liz Block receives two big direct contributions:
$15,000 from John Scully, founder of Making Waves charter school in Richmond, and
$4,000 from and Ron Beller and Jennifer Moses, founders of Caliber charter school. See
The California Charter Schools Association Advocates Independent Expenditure Committee files an Independent Expenditure Report recording that they spent $22,334 to oppose Peter Chau. See: 20141031_Form496_CCSAAdvocIndepExpComm_Oppose_Chau22K.pdf
Education Matters also files a form showing that in October, they spent $30,948 to oppose Madeline Kronenberg. See
And that’s it – that’s all we know, until well after the election. If you want a refresher, here is how it turned out: https://ballotpedia.org/West_Contra_Costa_Unified_School_District_elections_(2014)
This is when we started to find out about the big money.
The California Charter Schools Association Advocates Independent Expenditure Committee filed a “Supplemental Independent Expenditure Report” on the last day of January, which revealed that they spent $127,000 to oppose Kronenberg (who won anyway). See
In late February, that same organization – the California Charter Schools Association Advocates Independent Expenditure Committee filed two independent expenditure reports showing that they supported Liz Block with $111,000 and Valerie Cuevas with more than $87,000. See:
Altogether, with the opposition to Kronenberg, that’s $325,000. We were stunned, but we thought that was probably the extent of it. We were wrong.
In late April, Education Matters, a 501(c)(4) Political Action Committee founded by Stephen and Susan Chamberlin, filed six Supplemental Independent Expenditure Reports that revealed they spent the following big bucks to control the election:
$129,000 to support Liz Block
$ 96,000 to support Val Cuevas
$ 31,000 to oppose Madeline Kronenberg
$ 6,000 to oppose Peter Chau
That’s $262,000 the Chamberlin’s organization spent to buy the school board. See
At the end of July, a full 9 months after the election, the Cuevas campaign filed its Recipient Committee report, which lists all her donors in two time groups – Jan 1-Sept30, 2014, and Oct 1-Oct 18, 2014. Not a lot of surprises, but interesting nonetheless. See:
Note: The money that Madeline Kronenberg raised and spent on her own campaign was in increments of <$10,000, mostly from architectural firms and building trades organizations. It totaled about $105,000, which is half of what the Chamberlins and the CCSA spent to support either of the pro-charter candidates. There were no independent expenditures to support Kronenberg or any of the other candidates.