Op-Ed: Dark Money, Texas PAC Has Foothold On Half the GOP’s NH State Reps

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Leonard Witt

Op-Ed by Leonard Witt

Young Americans for Liberty (YAL), an anti-public education political action committee (PAC) based in Texas has found a way to use its dark money to get a “foothold” – its word – on the New Hampshire state legislature. YAL lists nearly 100 NH GOP state house representatives as members of its coalition. 

Their mission is summarized in a 2023 YAL press release:  “As a $13 million organization, YAL plans to invest significant resources into the effort, mobilizing thousands of student activists and supporting key members of its Hazlitt Coalition (a YAL funded affiliate) as they advance school choice bills in state legislatures.”

YAL brags that in 2022 the young people it pays and houses for monthly stints in New Hampshire have “knocked a total of 25,825 doors, made 118,800 phone calls to constituents, and dropped 21,755 mailers in support of freedom.”

Last week there was a flood of school choice bills being pushed by the 10 GOP members of the NH legislature’s education committee — seven of those members get YAL support. 

The one bill that passed will allow families of four earning up to $156,000 to get $10,500 a year to continue sending their two children to private, religious or home schools. That effectively increases these families’ incomes by $10,500 a year or instantly from $156,000 to $166,500 a year. Add another $5,000 for every child they have. So if the family has four children their income would jump from $156,000 to more than $176,000 a year.  

There is no limit on how many kids per family can receive the $5,000 vouchers.  According to the Children’s Scholarship Fund, which administers the vouchers, one mom is homeschooling her eight school aged children. The vouchers, according to Children’s Scholarship Fund, “made it possible…to cover the cost of educational materials and curricula and to explore a wide range of learning experiences, such as camps, swimming and music lessons, and Classical Conversations.” The mom quit working to homeschool the kids, and why not when the government hands you up to $40,000 to stay home.

The GOP house leadership manipulated the rules to bypass the house finance committee that would have evaluated the bill’s financial impact. So how many people will be getting $5,000 a year per child or $60,000 per child over the 12 years that student is in school is an unknown, but certainly this will cost New Hampshire taxpayers tens of millions of dollars, and over its lifetime hundreds of millions.  

We will not know the financial liabilities until this program starts, which probably will be very soon because odds are the GOP dominated senate will also pass the bill and Gov. Chris Sununu will sign it. 

The dark-money YAL helped get us to this low point in New Hampshire political history. YAL uses the term liberty a lot. To them it means doing away with almost all government, including public schools – its wedge issue – and then Social Security, Medicare, Obamacare and almost every other social program going back to those that President Franklin Delano Roosevelt instituted. From the time FDR died a small group of monied families wanted to kill Social Security and all the similar programs that followed in its path. 

Two of the biggest advocates to kill social security have been Charles and David Koch, leveraging their enormous oil money inheritance to get their start into politics. They are so far to the right that David ran for vice president on the Libertarian Party ticket against Ronald Reagan’s ticket because he thought Reagan was too liberal. Ever since they have been using their billions to undermine programs like public schools. Along with other unknown dark money contributors they have been pumping millions into YAL.  

Ron Paul is YAL’s iconic figure. His image is plastered all over its publications. At 88 years old Paul, like the Koch Brothers, has been trying to undo programs like Social Security, Medicare and public school his entire political life. One of his college friends said that even in his youth Ron Paul was “to the right of Attila the Hun.” He still is and so is YAL. 

PART II – How YAL Has Gotten a Foothold on the New Hampshire Legislature

It is amazing how upfront Young Americans for Liberty has been about its self-described “foothold” on the New Hampshire legislature and how, until now, it has traveled under New Hampshire media and political pundits’ radar.

YAL publications openly outline their plans for New Hampshire. They talk a lot about liberty, which is a code word for ending government’s involvement in Social Security, Medicare, Medicaid and public schools. 

Ted Patterson, a YAL vice president, provides an overview in one YAL publication:  “The idea is simple, yet profound: create a handful of states where liberty thrives and where the power of government is miniscule.

“In these states, we are working with our coalition of state legislators to pass a number of meaningful laws to reduce the power of government…

“New Hampshire is poised to boast over 100 Hazlitt legislators.”

What Paterson says next is especially true for the GOP majority in our NH state house. 

 “With a foothold of legislators in each chamber recorded roll call votes can be forced at any time on any issue. We are even seeing Hazlitt legislators take on leadership positions within their caucuses or committee leadership positions within each chamber.”

They do indeed have a “foothold” in the New Hampshire state legislature and have certainly seen their Hazlitt supported legislators take on leadership positions. In fact, seven of the 10 GOP House Education Committee members are listed as being Hazlitt coalition members and use its talking points. Five of them were given YAL paid stipends to attend its conference last year outside of Orlando. One, Alicia Lekas (R-Hillsborough), wrote on her expense form that part of the reason for the trip was “to learn tactics.”

Rep. Glenn Cordelli (R-Tuftonboro) also took the junket to Orlando. He is vice chair of the NH House Education Committee. His fingerprints are on almost every law that negatively impacts public education. He was a co-sponsor of the Critical Race Theory inspired bill that eventually was rewritten into the Divisive Concepts Law. It basically forces teachers to self-censor themselves. That’s intimidation, not liberty. Indeed, Moms for Liberty, another dark money funded right wing organization, put a $500 bounty on any New Hampshire teachers who uttered the censored words. 

Cordelli is probably the biggest early advocate for school choice vouchers. He claimed he was speaking for all the low income families who should be able to make the same choices that rich families do. That argument runs hollow, now that he pushed for vouchers for families earning $156,000 a year. In effect this bill provides these four-children families a $20,000 taxpayer-paid raise to $176,000.

Cordelli was also pushing another bill which would have no income cap to further enrich the already wealthy families with kids in private, religious or home schools. In others words, those low income families for whom he says he cares so much would through taxation be subsidizing exclusive private educations for New Hampshire’s wealthiest families.

Meanwhile, low income families that can’t make up the difference between a voucher payment and the actual tuition of a private school, or who can’t transport their children to private school, really aren’t experiencing the “education freedom” Cordelli touts.

By tracing all this back to YAL and its foothold on the New Hampshire legislature, one must ask if Cordelli is really speaking for the average New Hampshire citizen or mouthing the YAL rhetoric and using the tactics he and the other four members of his education committee learned while on the YAL junket. 

Cordelli would have zero influence, if he was not empowered by the more than 90 other GOP members getting YAL support. Also Gov. Chris Sununu, whose family has deep ties to New Hampshire’s limited government Josiah Bartlett Center for Public Policy, chose Frank Edelblut for the state’s education commissioner. Edelblut’s views are totally in sync with Cordelli’s. 

Many of the GOP’s Free Staters in the New Hampshire’s legislature, including GOP House majority leader Jason Osborne, are on YAL’s list of supported legislators.Now that tie is about to be made stronger. Former Maine State Senator Eric Brakey has been appointed as The New Hampshire Free State Project’s executive director. According to NHPR, he directed Ron Paul’s 2012 presidential campaign in Maine and spent time in Texas working for the YAL. 

The YAL’s foothold on our legislature is without a doubt undermining the lives of the 165,000 children now in our public schools by diverting funds away from these school children. Polls repeatedly show a vast majority of their parents and guardians are pleased with the education their children are receiving. 

Unlike other organizations that weigh in on education-related bills (the school board association, teachers’ unions, etc.), YAL has no stake in the New Hampshire outcomes. They just want to push their radical no Social Security, no Medicare and no public schools agenda. If it costs our taxpayers a fortune while wrecking our schools and hurting the prospects for our 165,000 public school children, what do they care, they are in Texas, where lawmakers have been voting down voucher giveaway bills similar to those New Hampshire GOP lawmakers have been passing.  

Here in New Hampshire almost half of the GOP members of our state legislature have become YAL inspired ideologues, not guardians of our children’s future and certainly not champions of fiscal responsibility. In truth, given that public schools is the wedge issue followed by the PAC’s plans for the demise of Social Security, Medicare and Medicaid they are putting their extreme ideologies ahead of the will of the people, the vast majority of whom want these programs protected from just the kind of assault YAL’s dark money is waging here in New Hampshire.

It is important that every voter in the state understands what is transpiring so they can make wise decisions on how to deal with politicians influenced by a faraway PAC loaded with money, which wants to impose its warped vision of “liberty” on the rest of us.  

Leonard Witt lives in Sandwich, NH. His spouse, his children and he and now his grandchild are proud of their public school educations.

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