RI’s Most Powerful Outside Special Interest Begins to Flex in Tiverton


In political disputes — with truth too often proving a weak defense against the quest for power — we frequently see the strategy of attacking the legitimacy of an action.  This person or group is only acting out of self interest.  That other person or group is interfering with decisions that aren’t theirs to make.  And so on.

Thus, we get the common sneer from Rhode Island insiders and progressives that anybody with a different view who has ever worked with any national group on any issue is really like an interloper trying to impose some foreign idea.  For example, they’ll dismiss the long local history of Mike Stenhouse and his family, saying the RI Center for Freedom & Prosperity is just some “Koch funded” group.  (It’s not.)

Of course, it’s impossible to miss the reality that whether something matters seems to depend entirely on whether it serves the insiders and the progressives.  A TV station can be owned by an out-of-state corporation, but it’s only a problem if making it a problem helps the local bullies to shove out ideas they don’t like.  Out-of-state funding can be pure — even something to tout — as long as it’s from progressive sources.

It is perfectly copacetic, then, for the scowling leaders of the National Education Association of Rhode Island, Executive Director Robert Walsh and President Larry Purtill, to pledge in an online video that their organization will descend upon the Town of Tiverton this summer and autumn in order to affect the local election of our school committee members.  Is an election a debate among local electors as to the best way their views can be represented within their town government?  Not if the Pooh Bahs of the NEA have anything to say about it.

Nope. They want ultimate control of both sides of the negotiating table.  And it isn’t enough for them to make their case on behalf of their local champion and let a court decide who has the better case.  They want it all, mostly to send a message to any locals in Tiverton or elsewhere who might attempt to stand up to them again.

Just so, when the union stages a PR event to offer drive-by encouragement of Mullen at her home, the local paper presents it as her having been “showered with support.”  Anybody who has witnessed labor unions busing in supporters from far away in order to fill a room will spot this line in the article: “More than 100 people had signed up to take part in the rally, one from as far away as New York, said Stephanie Mandeville, communications director for the National Educators Association, Rhode Island.”

When a special interest has this much money and power and a taxpayer-funded infrastructure to maintain the muscle for a nonstop political campaign, how can the people of any town really have their own voices represented?

  • Lou

    Thanks a lot…I had to do 3 shots, one for each time “progressive” appears in your post.

    It’s amazing it took you this long to post on a topic dominating the local news that’s occurring in your own backyard. Could it have anything to do with the substantial part of your household income that is the direct result of NEA’s ability to squeeze whatever in can out of the taxpayers of Tiverton?

    Remember when you were going to post the home addresses of all of the Tiverton public school teachers? What’s taking so long? Why don’t you start…with yours?

    • Justin Katz

      1. I wrote about this matter on April 23, which is three weeks ago, now.
      2. A substantial part of my household income is a direct result of my wife’s talent as a teacher. In general, some portion of a public school teacher’s pay might be higher because of the union, but I think the rigid step scale and uniform pay of all union members probably works out as a net negative in her case.
      3. When did I say I was going to publish the home addresses of teachers? At one point, I wrote about the towns in which they lived, in aggregate, but that’s very different.

      • Lou

        I stand corrected, but a lot has happened since Ms. Mullen was placed “on unpaid leave”. No followup until now? You salivate for the opportunity for a good public school teacher union bashing.

        I see, your wife has talent but the rest of the lot are no-talent union hacks. That’s really tough sell.

        What was the point of the where the teachers lived, anyway?

        • Justin Katz

          “She is better than average” is not the same as “the rest are no-talent hacks.” But beyond that, there are other details that affect my calculation of the unions’ effect on her income that I won’t go into, here.

          I don’t remember the specifics of what I was writing about that made teachers’ residences relevant. It might have had to do with the claim that teachers voting for tax increases were taxpayers, too.

          • Lou

            Nice try. My recollection was you wanted to post the address and assessed value of the teacher’s homes. Perhaps to draw attention to their pay, which you then seemed much more interested in publicizing. Again, why don’t you start…with yours?

            When I saw the title of your post “RI’s Most Powerful Outside Special Interest Begins to Flex in Tiverton”, I was hoping you were going to be honest with us and discuss the State Policy Network. But maybe you are a little late for that.

          • Justin Katz

            Yes, I recall that I did look into some of the property values, particularly those who live in other towns. I don’t think it was every my intention to publish home addresses, but rather I was looking into averages. People who don’t like me around town have been more than happy to publish my home address and its values, if you’re looking for that information.

            Your claim about SPN is just silly. The idea that what I do in Tiverton is part of my job is wrong, first of all. Second, the idea that the Center is funded wholly, or even largely, by SPN is wrong, too. It’s resource network mainly when we’re looking for information on an issue about which we’re already concerned. And lastly, even if SPN were fully engaged in Tiverton, it still wouldn’t match the NEA for power or demonstrated aggression for self interest.

            Of course, it’s easy to spin up foolish conspiracies when you’re an anonymous commenter on the Internet.

          • Lou

            “looking into averages” of pubic teachers home values? What was that going to tell you? That sounds kind of creepy to me.

            Are you including Donors Trust funding in your denial of the significance of dark money in your tapestry of support?

          • Justin Katz

            I believe some of the debate at the time had to do with average incomes and so on. At a time when taxes were going up by as much as 11% per year, with contract increases added in, the wealth of the beneficiaries of that exchange versus the people paying for it was a relevant question.

          • Lou

            “the wealth of the beneficiaries of that exchange”? I hope you are joking. The town was funding new (voter approved debt), wasn’t it? You want to spin that as teachers being “beneficiaries of that exchange”?

            No comment on the dark money funding?

          • Justin Katz

            The town had a lot of demands on its budget, and the new debt was for school improvements. I didn’t say the contract was the only factor, but it was another hit to people who couldn’t afford the massive increases.

            I don’t tend to comment when somebody keeps asking more or less the same question under the assumption that he knows something. I’m not involved in the Center’s fundraising, but again, (1) my understanding is that the vast majority of our funding comes from Rhode Islanders, (2) my community involvement in Tiverton is not part of my job, and (3) even if it were, that wouldn’t come anywhere near the power and involvement of the NEA.

            No comment on your anonymity? If you want to talk about what’s “creepy,” I’d says spending a beautiful Saturday morning sneering at somebody from behind a veil counts. Unless you’re doing this as part of your job, perhaps.

          • Lou

            I think it’s evident by this thread why someone would wish to remain anonymous in dealing with you. In your quest for promoting your discount McCarthyism agenda you have no compunctions about demonizing innocents to further your cause. The children and families of Tiverton public school teachers are served up because you didn’t like the way a debt referendum turned out. I think THAT”S creepy.

            For someone obsessed with outing your perceived opponents and their “agenda”; you aren’t very transparent about who is funding your own.

          • Justin Katz

            Yes, it’s very apparent that you want anonymity so that you can say whatever you want without allowing anybody to understand your motives.