Teacher Union President Celebrates Himself At His Dark Money PAC Fundraiser

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Last November, while Newark was plagued by a COVID-positivity rate of 22%, Montclair Mayor/NJ teacher union President-to-be Sean Spiller decided the time was ripe to throw a fundraiser. For $1,000 a seat, just five miles from New Jersey’s COVID-19 epicenter, those with deep pockets were urged to attend a “Holiday Cocktail Reception” at the posh Nanina’s in the Park where they’d be greeted by a doorman in top hat and tails, feast on caviar, and sip “a variety of iced vodkas.”

It’s that time of year again so grab the keys to your Porsche and pull out your wallet. Next week, for just $2,600 a person, you too can roll up to the MC Hotel in Montclair and “honor women in labor”–former NJEA president Marie Blistan and former CWA president Hetty Rosenstein —while feasting on, well, this time the menu isn’t on the invitation. (Spiller got a lot of flack for his inappropriate excess last year. He cancelled at the last minute and made the event virtual. Not sure how caviar travels in cyberspace.)

Sean M. Spiller$2,600 – Co-Chair
$1,000 – Co-Host
$500 – Supporter
$250 – Attendee
$8,200 – Maximum PAC Contribution
Who is the benefactor of all this cash? Sean Spiller. Well, technically, patrons are making checks out to a one-year-old dark money PAC called “Progress for Action.” While Spiller’s name isn’t on the filings (and it’s too soon for IRS forms to be public) his brother is on the Board of Directors. In fact, this is the same PAC born just in time for last November’s festivities.

Why, given NJEA’s bank account, does Spiller need his own PAC? Because he wants to be New Jersey governor. Heck, last February he volunteered to  become President Biden’s Education Secretary.  (Uncle Joe turned down his kind offer.)

There’s no shortage of ironies amidst this wheeling-and-dealing duplicity, including the use of Rosie the Riveter on the invitation, a symbol of the heroism of women during World War II who–unlike Spiller or Blistan–surely didn’t make half a million dollars a year, even accounting for inflation.

For instance:

  • All this money is going to a man with an enormous amount of power instead of the women he’s pretending to celebrate. Spiller, after all, fired Montclair board of education member Sergio Gonzalez for daring to express his concerns about Spiller’s multiple conflicts of interest in Montclair. How can a mayor fire a school board member? Because in Montclair the mayor appoints the school board and Spiller tries really hard to only appoint NJEA acolytes. This results in, for example, a contract negotiation committee where all people hypothetically representing residents defer to the other side of the table, which doesn’t represent residents. How outsized is NJEA power in Montclair? After the superintendent and school board decided to reopen schools (at the pleas of parents) teacher union leaders vetoed the reopening and told teachers to  stay home. The district had to file a lawsuit to get the union leaders to step down. Democracy in action!  
  • The MC Hotel, the venue for Spiller’s bash, is (most likely) NOT UNIONIZED. How’s that for a purity test? Here’s Matt Friedman of Politico:

Let’s do some math. At the MC Hotel there is a 3,300 square foot ballroom, where one can assume Spiller’s word-salad-ish “Progress for Action” (Action for Progress? Passive-Aggression?) will hold the event. That much space would fit 1,000 people but let’s say he’s hoping for 500. At $2,600 a head that would yield $1.3 million (although you can give as much as $8,200, according to the invitation). [Correction: A sharp-eyed reader notes that the affair is on the rooftop of the hotel, not in the ballroom. So maybe cut the yield by half.]

Data point: when Spiller ran for Montclair mayor, his opponent Renee Baskerville raised a total of $10,360. 

A Montclair resident who wants to remain anonymous told me, “it’s not global warning that’s changing the climate in Montclair–it’s Spiller and his tornado of dark money.”

Hey, President Spiller is in the big time now!




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