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This is a response to Mike Gottesman’s op-ed, “Put Up Or Shut up,” about Mike Lilley’s Sunlight Policy Center of NJ.
Meet Michael “Hundreds of Millions” Gottesman, founder of the NJ Public Education Coalition, (NJPEC), the group trying to bully school boards into adopting a progressive education agenda. Gottesman got his nickname because he maintained to the Star-Ledger that “right-wing extremist” groups had “hundreds of millions of dollars being donated to them in New Jersey” to take over school boards. “Hundreds of millions” was absurd on its face, and Gottesman has not — indeed, he cannot — provide a shred of evidence to back it. Yet he said it publicly and has not retracted it. Now it turns out “Hundreds of Millions” is just the tip of the iceberg when it comes to Gottesman’s mendacity.
True to form, Gottesman recently wrote a piece in NJEdReport which was full of his trademark mendacity. Here are a few examples:
- Gottesman states that Sunlight claims NJPEC receives money from both the NJEA and NEA. This is false. Sunlight NEVER claimed that NJPEC was funded by NEA/NJEA. We did claim that Education Truth Project (ETP), a dark-money Super PAC involved in NJ school board elections, looked very much like it was receiving NJEA money, which we later changed to NEA/NJEA because of certain facts we observed (NEA/NJEA is a distinction without a difference). NJPEC is an affiliate of ETP and receives funding from ETP, yet Gottesman never once mentions ETP and its relationship with NJPEC. This is evasive to the point of mendacity.
- Gottesman goes on to claim that Sunlight has not provided any proof of NEA/NJEA funding. This is also false. As we have made clear from the very beginning, because ETP is a dark-money SuperPAC, we have to rely on circumstantial evidence, but there is a great deal of it (here, here, here, and here). We provided plenty of proof and we were very specific about what it is and where it came from. More mendacity from Gottesman.
- Gottesman states that Mike Lilley, Sunlight’s founder, worked with the American Enterprise Institute, the “research arm” of the Heritage Foundation. This is also false. They are two separate organizations, which a few minutes of research would have revealed. But Gottesman would rather hurl invective than check the facts. Another example of Gottesman’s casual disregard of the truth.
- Gottesman falsely claims that Sunlight is a “dark money” group. Dark money refers to political spending meant to influence elections, which Sunlight does not do. On the other hand, Gottesman’s funder and affiliate ETP is the very definition of a dark-money group: a Super PAC that spends money on school board elections without revealing the source of the money. More evasion and mendacity.
The facts show that Gottesman’s NJEdReport piece is riddled with falsehoods, but it’s not an isolated incident. In addition to the “Hundreds of Millions” falsehood above, Gottesman asserted on Sunlight’s Facebook page that NJPEC was not funded by ETP. This was false. At the time, NJPEC’s website and press releases were marked as paid for by ETP. Indeed, NJPEC soon became an “affiliate” of ETP. So it’s habitual mendacity.
Making matters worse, to give his habitual mendacity an intimidating edge, Gottesman’s adopts a bullying “put up or shut up!” tone in his NJEdReport piece (and elsewhere). This is the same tone he used on our Facebook page, where Gottesman’s invective became so offensive that Facebook’s content moderator actually stepped in and removed his comments due to “profanity.” No doubt this is the same tone Gottesman uses when he attempts to bully school boards.
Altogether, the facts show that Gottesman’s modus operandi is to replace facts and civil discourse with falsehoods and bullying.
As for Gottesman’s challenge, no, Sunlight will not be bullied into revealing its donors because we are a 501(c)(3) non-profit that is not required to reveal its donors — precisely in order to protect charitable donors from mendacious bullies like Gottesman.
So when you see Gottesman and NJPEC in action, remember that it’s Michael “Hundreds of Millions” Gottesman. Mendacity and bullying are sure to follow.