The scandal surrounding Question 2 — the 2016 pro-charter school campaign that Governor Charlie Baker put his full political muscle into — goes on.
A New York-based, cash-heavy charter advocacy group, Families for Excellent Schools, which poured nearly $20 million into the ballot question, is being shuttered by its board of directors after investigating a complaint of “inappropriate behavior” involving its controversial executive director, Jeremiah Kittredge. Politico, a political news outlet based in the Washington, D.C. area, reported a woman at a recent conference accused him of sexual harassment.
But the board, in its statement, also cited “additional factors” in its statement. They gave no other details.
That led some speculation back to Boston, where Kittredge spent a good part of 2016 overseeing the Question 2 campaign and engineering an illegal fund-raising scheme that eventually led to a $426,466 fine levied by state campaign finance regulators last September.
The state’s Office of Campaign and Political Finance charged that Kittredge had asked wealthy Massachusetts financiers and businessmen to donate as much to $2 million to the pro-charter ballot question, with assurances their names would never be released — a clear violation of state campaign finance laws requiring full disclosure of contributors to political causes.
Kittredge, who was part of Baker’s team that ran the charter question, alienated long-time charter advocates in Massachusetts with his heavy-handed management style, according to a source who worked with him in the campaign.
His role was to set the strategy with the governor’s top advisers and helped raise millions of dollars here that was funneled back to FESA in New York, where it was bundled and sent back to Great Schools Massachusetts, the ballot committee for the Question 2 campaign.
For Kittredge who, since joining FES as its director in 2011, had survived charter-school wars in New York City, his work in Massachusetts had play to a good part in his undoing.
UMass Boston political science professor Maurice Cunningham said Kittredge’s “frittering away” $20 million in the losing Question 2 ballot question was enough to put his job in jeopardy, but exposing the wealthy donors for trying to hide their contribution was perhaps ever worse for him.
“Getting the plutocrats’ identities exposed after promising them secrecy must have had the Financial Privatization Cabal erupting in fury,” said Cunningham.
Correction: Due to a reporting error, an earlier version of this story misstated who brought Kittredge to work on the charter schools campaign in Massachusetts. He had worked previously in the state on the issue before joining Baker’s team.Frank Phillips can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.