Anatomy of an Arizona Dark Money Group’s Mail Fail

Why couldn’t a Koch Brother funded anti-public school group pony up $12 for a stock image?

Why would a well-funded dark money group send out a mailer with an obvious watermark on it? Especially when that image costs a mere $12?

The Arizona chapter of Americans for Prosperity Foundation, part of the Charles and David Koch network, is behind the mailer. The organization has backed conservative candidates in Arizona and is a vocal supporter of expanding the state’s school-voucher program. They’re behind many extreme right-wing efforts and are generally all-around bad people and the world would be better if they didn’t exist. (Sorry to their mother, who we are sure is lovely.)

The Koch Brothers have a combined net worth of $96.6 billion. So with all that cash available, how did the Arizona AFP send out a mailer that still had a watermarked image on it — an image that literally cost $12 American dollars? When you look at the middle of the mailer you can clearly see the word “IStock.”

EXHIBIT A: When you look at the middle of the mailer you can clearly see the word “iStock.”

We did some quick internet sleuthing (aka, we Googled “happy white family”) and found the iStock image that AFP used. You can tell they reversed the image and removed the other watermarks but failed to remove the ones on the father and son. Maybe whoever was editing the photo got tired or 5pm hit and they were done for the day.

A happy family ready to go on your anti-public schools mailer

The other fun thing about this mailer? The number one cited source is a blog post (yes, a blog post) dated December 2015 and titled: Arizona Gains and the Orbit of Mercury-Wrecking Balls for Flawed Paradigms.”

Wait, what?

You could try reading the blog post, but it doesn’t clarify things much, and certainly doesn’t contain much rigorous evidence showing that Arizona charter schools are “top in the nation.”

It does, however, contain this gem:

Public schools for example may be the most notable example of a predominantly Soft institution-which helps explain why American children are confined mostly to Soft America.”

I have so many questions. What is Soft America? Where is it? Can I visit? Are there naps?

Soft America

And why, why would Americans for Prosperity spend tens of thousands of dollars sending out a mailer to tell me about it?

Furthermore, the author of the blog post is Matthew Ladner, a senior research fellow at the Charles Koch Institute and co-author of ALEC’s “Report Card on American Education: Ranking State K-12 Performance, Progress, and Reform.”

Not at all biased.

The actual claims in the mailer are also misleading. Arizona schools and students aren’t moving up. In fact, they’re stagnant. Arizona teacher’s are the least paid in the nation, ranking an abysmal 50th. According to data from the U.S. Census Bureau, Arizona ranks 48th out of 50 states in overall per pupil funding for its K-12 students.

So why are they sending these mailers? Earlier this year the Republican-led Legislature and Governor Doug Ducey passed sweeping voucher expansion, which uses tax dollars for private-school tuition and lacks transparency or accountability.

Arizona Save Our Schools, a grassroots effort of parents, teachers and other public school defenders, successfully put this new law on hold when they gathered 111,540 signatures to put the measure on the 2018 ballot.

Cue Americans For Prosperity full on freak out and deceitful mailers like this one. It turns out that the people still have the ability to put the powerful on notice.

This certainly won’t be the last mailer AFP sends out, as they are committed to destroying public schools and any citizen who dares push back against their agenda.

Hopefully next time they pay $12.