Charleston, South Carolina – What is “dark money” and can it influence local elections like a school board race?
“Dark money is political system donations that are given and we don’t know the source of the donations,” says College of Charleston Political Science professor Gibbs Knotts.
The Charleston Coalition for Kids says it has spent more than $306,000 dollars to promote its school board candidates, but who is really pulling the strings when it comes to the next school board agenda?
“It’s been quite a challenge if you don’t know how to pray- you learn quick,” says incumbent Reverend Chris Collins.
Collins has been on the Charleston County School Board for 12 years. Right now, he is in a fight for his political life.
“The lies I have to defend, with the millions of dollars they are spending,” says Collins.
The “they” Collins refers to is the Charleston Coalition for Kids.
The Coalition’s Executive Director Josh Bell recognizes that there is a lot of money going into the race right now. “It’s a bold game plan. I’ll agree with that,” says Bell.
The bold plan is to reshape the future of the Charleston County School Board with five new board members chosen by the Coalition, ousting both Collins and Kevin Hollishead in the process.
“For too long, we have had school board members that are not qualified, but put their interest first and who are not urgent about change for kids,” says Bell.
Who is behind the Coalition? That remains a secret.
“If you giving money to a specific candidate, that has to be reported, but if you give to a group that is advocating on behalf of a candidate, you can be more protected,” said Knotts.
Bell says his donors prefer to stay in the background.
“There are so many organizations that have anonymous donors that care about the mission that don’t want notoriety,” says Bell.
This is not the first time the Coalition has had a voice in the makeup of the CCSD board. Two years ago, all four of its candidates won their seats on the school board.
We’re working for our Charleston County School District parents, letting you know who is on the ballot for the five open board member seats. There are 16 candidates running.
For the North Charleston area, Chris Collins and Kevin Hollinshead are the incumbents, as Kristen French, Charles Monteith and Courtney Waters battle for the two spots.
For the West Ashley area, Chris Fraser is the incumbent, battling Francis Beylotte III, Erica Cokley, Helen Davis Frazier, Charles Glover Sr. and John Prioleau Sr.
And for the Peninsula area, Lee Bennett Jr., Regina Duggins, Lauren Herterich, and Tony Lewis are running for one spot.