Progressive groups in New York are launching a targeted attack campaign Friday against education activist and former CNN host Campbell Brown in an effort to discredit her as she pursues a legal challenge to teacher tenure.
The campaign, dubbed "The Real Campbell Brown," attempts to bash Brown for her ties to charter school advocate and former D.C. schools chancellor Michelle Rhee, her marriage to Republican political operative Dan Senor, and for dodging questions on Stephen Colbert's show about her donors.
Over the last year or so, Brown has become a high-profile activist for charter schools in New York, and against teacher tenure and other protections for unionized teachers, including those given to teachers accused of sexual abuse. Brown and her group Partnership for Educational Justice recently helped several parents file a lawsuit seeking to gut teacher tenure in New York, similar to the Supreme Court decision earlier this year that dismantled teacher tenure in California. The lawsuit has earned the ire of progressives nationwide over the past few weeks, but this campaign is the first focused attack from leading local groups with strong ties to teachers unions and the de Blasio administration.
"Teachers always used to say follow the money — I so totally get that right now," said Zakiyah Ansari, advocacy director for the Alliance for Quality Education, one of the chief groups leading the campaign. "The people that have the money are pushing this agenda. And we have to call that out."
Though Ansari served on Mayor Bill de Blasio's transition team, she says his administration isn't involved with their efforts against Brown.
"As a parent, I am appalled that union-funded groups are trying to use personal attacks on Campbell to distract from the fact that our kids are not getting the education they deserve," said Mona Pradia, one of the parents who filed the lawsuit, in an emailed statement.
"Meanwhile, the defenders of the status quo remain silent on the parents of public schools students who have actually filed the lawsuit in the desperate hopes of getting their kids receiving a decent education," added Stefan Friedman, spokesman for Partnership for Educational Justice, via email. "Michael Mulgrew and AQE should be ashamed"
Along with AQE the campaign is also run by New York Communities for Change, the advocacy group that replaced the now-defunct ACORN.
"It's about time the world sees the real Campbell Brown for who she is: a right-wing elitist with zero credibility on education," said Renata Pumarol, who is helping run the campaign and also runs communications at NYCC.
Along with the report, the campaign launched a website and parody Twitter account to mock her.
From the campaign:
The report especially harps on Brown's ties to the right. It describes her as having "a history of targeting Democrats and hobnobbing with Republican donors and hedge funders like Dan Loeb, Paul Singer and Daniel Allen and Republican politicians like former Governor Jeb Bush."
The report also focuses on her husband, Dan Senor. Senor was an adviser to Mitt Romney's 2012 presidential campaign and was a spokesman for the Coalition Provisional Authority in Iraq. But the report focuses on Senor's ties to a group called StudentsFirstNY, which the progressive group describes as "an anti-public education organization that is also involved in this lawsuit."
Ansari said the campaign isn't meant to be a long-haul, they've only mapped out a run for the next couple of weeks. But she said the goal is to bring the focus back on "real issues," and hopes the campaign will remove Brown somewhat from the picture.
When asked for comment a spokesman for Brown emailed a list of five Democratic campaigns he said she's donated to.
The spokesman added that he didn't think she donated to any Republican campaigns either.
This post was updated to included comment from a parent in the lawsuit and a Partnership for Educational Justice spokesman.
Jacob Fischler is a political reporter for BuzzFeed News and is based in Washington, D.C.
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