GOP leaders and wealthy donors funded election attacks
Signs opposing Critical Race Theory line the entrance to the Loudoun County School Board Headquarters in Ashburn, Virginia, United States, June 22, 2021.
Evelyne Hockstein | Reuters
Several business executives and wealthy donors helped fund groups that targeted critical race theory, which was a hot topic in this fall’s election, according to campaign finance records.
The struggle for critical race theory, an academic concept taught primarily in college and university level courses, was particularly prominent in Virginia’s race for governor. Republican Glenn Youngkin has defeated former Democratic Governor Terry McAuliffe after pushing to ban the teaching of critical race theory in Commonwealth schools.
The battle over the concept is likely to intensify with next year’s midterm elections on the horizon. Republican officials have previously signaled that education issues such as teaching critical race theory will be the focus of the campaign. Critical Race Theory, also known as CRT, is an academic approach to studying the impact of racism. Conservatives have recently used the term to describe any anti-racist discussion or even any mention of race in schools.
One of the groups attacking critical race theory, the Fight for Schools PAC, is based in Virginia and is led by Ian Prior, a longtime GOP agent. âWelcome to the parenting revolution,â says the group’s website, which encourages visitors to donate.
While critical race theory is the group’s primary concern, according to its website, it also says, âSchools across the country remain only partially open, students suffer from hopelessness and despair, and children with special needs slip through the cracks. “
The PAC is also supported by several well-off Republican financiers. Businesswoman and benefactor Sharon Virts is PAC’s largest donor, having contributed $ 11,000 so far, according to data from the Virginia Public Access Project.
Virts, according to his LinkedIn page, Is the founder and CEO of FCi Federal. The company, according to Bloomberg, “provides operations management and professional services to federal government agencies.” It was acquired by technology company PAE in 2017.
A website promoting Virts’ foundation says she and her partner, Scott Miller, have focused their philanthropic efforts on education, health care and the restoration of historic monuments. In 2016, the couple purchased the sprawling estate called Selma, located in Leesburg, Virginia. According to local newspaper Loudoun Now, they spent about $ 1.2 million to buy the historic mansion which has 20 rooms.
The couple and their house were featured in Washington Life Magazine in 2019. They said at the time that they spent $ 5 million to restore the property. Data from the non-partisan Center for Responsive Politics shows Virts donated more than $ 44,000 to the Congressional Republican National Committee in 2017 and then donated to Trump’s re-election campaign in 2020.
Virts did not respond to repeated requests for comment.
1776 Action, a separate black silver group who also opposes critical race theory and is supported by people linked to former President Donald Trump, such as Newt Gingrich and Ben Carson, donated $ 10,000 to Fight for Schools PAC. The Presidential Coalition, which was founded by David Bossie, a longtime Trump ally, donated $ 5,000 to Fight for Schools.
Another anti-CRT organization, the 1776 Project PAC, supported candidates for school boards in various states, including Virginia, Colorado, New Jersey, and Ohio. The group was founded by author and political commentator Ryan Girdusky,
The 1776 Project PAC received a donation of $ 1,000 from Pete Farrell, president and founder of the medical equipment company ResMed. Eric Gray, vice president of insurance company Gray & Co., donated the same amount to the committee.
Project 1776’s Girdusky and Prior of Fight for Schools both noted in separate statements to CNBC that their committees were largely funded by small donors. Records show that the combined PACs have raised over $ 735,000.
“The vast majority of donations to Fight for Schools come from small donors who are parents, grandparents and taxpayers frustrated by the inability of school boards to collaborate and be accountable to their constituents – especially the school board. from Loudon County, “Prior told CNBC in A Written Message.
âLike I said, there were over 17,000 donors and the average donation was less than $ 100. To my knowledge, no one has donated more than $ 10,000. told CNBC via a Twitter message.
There are many other business leaders who help fund Fight for Schools.
Nicole Hall, president of finance company HSP Direct, donated $ 5,000 to PAC in June. HSP Direct has been paid more than $ 30,000 for its services by the Fight for Schools PAC, according to Virginia-based records. During the 2020 election cycle, the HSP saw payments of more than $ 6 million from GOP campaigns and affiliated committees, according to CRP data.
Alexander Marcus, founder and CEO of fuel supply company ESI Total Fuel Management, donated $ 1,000 to PAC in August. Marcus did not return a LinkedIn message for comment.
Emord and Associates, a law firm that focuses in part on constitutional law, contributed $ 1,000 to PAC in September. Jonathan Emord, the president of the company, did not return an email seeking comment.
John Whitbeck, founder of the Whitbeck Bennett law firm, donated $ 1,000 to the committee in August. Whitbeck did not return a call and email for comment.
A business leader who has contributed to Fight for Schools cited Covid policies as the reason for his donation.
Pete Snyder, founder of venture capital firm Disruptor Capitol and former Republican candidate for governor of Virginia, donated $ 2,000 to Fight for Schools in July.
âBecause our schools are an absolute mess,â Snyder said, explaining why he had contributed. âAt that time, our schools were closed and there was no question of opening them. ”
Snyder also donated $ 15,000 to the Open FCPS Coalition, a group of parents in Virginia who support in-person learning.