FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE
Wednesday, September 13, 2017
Emily Fitzmaurice, Massachusetts Democratic Party, 617-939-0808
Massachusetts Democratic Party Calls on Paul Sagan to Come Clean About Illegal Donations
BOSTON – Massachusetts Democratic Party Chair Gus Bickford sent the following letter today to Board of Elementary and Secondary Education Chair Paul Sagan after revelations that he gave $496,000 in illegal contributions to Families for Excellent Schools, the outside dark money group pushing for charter school expansion in Massachusetts, which received the largest fine ever imposed by the Office of Campaign and Political Finance this week.
September 13, 2017
Gus Bickford, Chair
Massachusetts Democratic Party
11 Beacon Street
Boston, MA 02108
Paul Sagan, Chair
Massachusetts Board of Elementary and Secondary Education
75 Pleasant Street
Malden, MA 02148
On August 10, 2016, you donated $100,000 to the “Campaign for Fair Access to Quality Public Schools” (CFAQPS), one of several ballot committees organized to support Question 2, the charter expansion ballot question. At the time, Governor Baker said that you “sought and won the approval of the state Ethics Commission before making the donation.” Nearly a month later, on September 2, 2016, you filed an ethics disclosure about your donation.1
This week, a legal settlement reached between the Office of Campaign and Political Finance (OCPF) and the organization “Families for Excellent Schools Advocacy Committee” (FESA) revealed publicly for the first time that on August 4 and 5, 2016, you donated an additional $496,000 to FESA, which was then donated to the Great Schools Massachusetts ballot committee (GSM Committee), another ballot committee organized to support Question 2.2
The OCPF settlement states that “based on the nature, timing and amounts of the deposits into FESA’s account and the transfers from FESA to the GSM Committee, FESA was soliciting and receiving funds for the purpose of making contributions to the GSM Committee to influence a Massachusetts election,” and that FESA violated state campaign finance law “by receiving contributions to support Question 2 without disclosing the contributors, and by providing funds to the GSM Committee in a manner intended to disguise the true source of the contributions.”3
Given your role as the Chair of the state board that oversees charter schools in Massachusetts, it is incredibly disturbing that you secretly spent nearly $500,000 attempting to greatly increase the number of charter schools under your authority, while going to great lengths to hide the full extent of your contributions from the public. Massachusetts residents have serious concerns regarding these donations, your role in the Baker Administration, and whether or not you’re adhering to your oath of office.
Furthermore, it appears from public reports that you may have intentionally misled the state Ethics Commission by omitting from your ethics disclosure any mention of your secret donation to FESA, leading them to believe that your publicly disclosed donation to CFAQPS was your sole donation to a pro-charter group.
This alarming revelation raises several questions:
- Was the state Ethics Commission aware of your secret donation to FESA?
- Did they give you approval to make a secret donation that Massachusetts voters would not be aware of?
- Was Governor Baker aware of your secret donation to FESA?
- In seeking approval to make donations to Question 2 groups, the top priority for Governor Baker, did you disclose that Akamai Technologies (the company you led as President and CEO, serve on the Board of Directors of, and own millions of dollars’ worth of stock in) was requesting special state tax credits awarded by the Baker Administration?4
- Have you made other donations to pro-charter groups during your time as Chair that you have not disclosed?
In light of this news, I urge you to publicly disclose, within 5 business days, the following documents:
- All communications between you and the state Ethics Commission during your time as Chair of the Massachusetts Board of Elementary and Secondary Education, including, but not limited to, your request for approval to make donations to pro-charter groups and your ethics disclosure filed September 2, 2016.
- Records showings any other donations you have made to pro-charter groups during your time as Chair.
- All communications between you and FESA, and any materials or documentation provided to you by FESA, in the course of their solicitation of your donations, and any communication between you and third-party individuals regarding your donation. The OCPF settlement states that “FESA regularly provided documentation to donors that discussed FESA’s legal analysis and FESA assured donors in writing that FESA was complying with its obligations under applicable state law and that it would not take any steps that would require it to register as a political committee.”
If you refuse to release these documents, I call on you to immediately resign as Chair of the Massachusetts Board of Elementary and Secondary Education.
Chair, Massachusetts Democratic Party
CC: Governor Charlie Baker
CC: David A Wilson, Executive Director, State Ethics Commission