Sunlight Policy Center of New Jersey (SPCNJ) recently published a report “Who and What Is NJ21United?” asking who was behind NJ21United, the dark-money, political-action group that is organizing the #OnlyWhenItsSafe campaign. #OnlyWhenItsSafe calls for delaying the reopening of NJ public schools until certain conditions are met.
Here are three indisputable facts about NJ21United:
- NJ21United is a political action group that was started a year-and-a-half ago and is staffed by trained, veteran political organizers. It is not a spontaneous, grassroots uprising by parents and educators over reopening schools. For over a year – up until COVID struck – NJ21United focused on traditional NJEA priorities and engaged in a series of planned campaigns in support of them.
- NJ21United has deep ties to the NJEA and its national parent, the National Education Association (NEA). NJ21United’s agenda has been and is noticeably similar to the NJEA’s and NEA’s agenda, including on schools reopening. The NJEA has often supported parent- and community-organizing allies to help advance its agenda.
- Creating and running a group like NJ21United costs money and someone is paying for it. NJ21United has a highly capable website with a state-of-the-art digital organizing platform courtesy of Action Network (another dark money 501(c)(4)). It has an active and strong social media presence. It has created numerous sets of talking points, in-depth presentations and sophisticated political organizing toolkits. It is currently conducting a well-orchestrated, multi-week campaign with rallies across the state showing protesters with signs and red teeshirts. It is registered with the IRS. Creating and running such an organization costs money. NJ21United assures us that it is entirely (and apparently generously) funded by its members but since it is a 501(c)(4), dark-money, political-action group that does not have to disclose its funders, we will probably never know for certain.