You’re probably wondering, along with the rest of us, how such an inane straw-man issue like critical race theory (CRT) could be the fulcrum to catapult GOP darling Glenn Youngkin into the governor’s seat. Well, let’s say it wasn’t white suburban Karens toiling away in a grassroots effort. It was a carefully crafted scheme by GOP operatives, funded by billionaire donors such as Koch Industries working as puppetmasters and baiting scared white parents into serving as mouthpieces.
According to reporting by The Daily Beast, several of Virginia’s anti-CRT groups were found to have backing by lobbying firms, Koch groups, former Trump officials, and The Federalist Society.
These deep pocket groups used Virginia’s non-degreed Karens as the face of CRT (a curriculum that isn’t even taught in their kids’ schools) because these GOP-backed entities knew they could count on their PTA moms who’ve historically been there to fight the good fight against Black and brown people, and this was an issue they could quickly unite them around.
Virginia’s anti-CRT efforts were conducted primarily by rabid dog Ian Prior—former press secretary for the National Republican Congressional Committee, former comms director for the Karl Rove super PAC American Crossroads, and a former official in the Justice Department under former one-term President Donald Trump. Today, Prior works as a GOP operative behind Fight for Schools and launched Parents Against Critical Theory (PACT), even though he claims to be just another concerned Virginia parent.
Prior’s group, Fight for Schools, is backed by 1776 Action, a nonprofit led by former Secretary of Housing and Urban Development, Dr. “Uncle” Ben Carson.
Prior’s name doesn’t appear on the PACT’s website; the group was supposedly founded by Scott Mineo, another Loudoun County, Virginia parent, and another mad dog who has welcomed money from 1776 Action.
“Our kids have the right to develop their own opinions, free from indoctrination and school-sanctioned bullying. Instead of opening young minds, Loudoun County school leaders are policing them. This is not education; it is coercion,” Mineo told Washington Examiner in June.
Prior has appeared on Fox News at least 15 times, and according to Media Matters, “Prior currently runs his own political communications consulting firm, is co-founder of a political newsletter, and is a senior counsel and spokesperson for Unsilenced Majority, ’a grassroots conservative advocacy organization opposed to cancel culture in all forms’ helmed by other Republican and right-wing media figures.”
The Daily Beast reports another significantly funded group is the Free to Learn Coalition, which is apparently connected to the Concord Fund, also known as the Judicial Crisis Network (JCN), a nonprofit run by Leonard Leo, a big-bucks conservative activist, and Federalist Society executive. JCN, and Carrie Severino, a former law clerk of Justice Clarence Thomas. JCN spent at least $10 million in ads to support the confirmation of Amy Coney Barrett and Severino is a staunch pro-lifer who helped to draft legal challenges to the Affordable Care Act.
Then there is the group Parents Defending Education, founded by Nicole Neily, who also happens to be a Koch network alum who formerly worked at the Independent Women’s Forum and served as president of the Franklin Center for Government and Public Integrity. Columbia Journalism Review has identified Neily as “the Koch’s leading media investment to date.”
Patti Hidalgo Menders is president of the Loudoun County Virginia Republican Women’s Club. But Menders is not just another suburban mother of six fighting against Virginia’s equity and inclusion curriculum in schools; she’s also a GOP strategist.
“The folks who fund this also oppose public education, the distribution of public goods, and the power of collective action. It ties up in a nice package with a big bow: to undermine democracy,” Maurice Cunningham, a political science professor at the University of Massachusetts at Boston and the author of Dark Money and the Politics of School Privatization, told The Daily Beast.
The GOP has found its dupes again. This time it’s a bunch of racist suburban moms who are fighting a desperate battle against having little Johnny and Karen learn about their violent colonizer history in this nation. Of course, all of this is just smoke and mirrors; once again, the Republican party is using these people and their fear simply to gain power.