Q. When is an Upper East Side Democrat Not a Democrat?

by Mrs Panstreppon

A. When she contributes to the campaign of Rep John E. Sweeney (R-CD 20) in exchange for a $1,000,000 earmark for her Readnet Foundation in the pending HHS appropriations bill.

Meet Robin D. Hubbard, president and founder of the Readnet Foundation. Ms. Hubbard is also the founder and a trustee of the failed Readnet Bronx Charter School at the Metropolitan College of New York and president of Smart Learning Systems, LLC (formerly Readnet Systems, LLC).

There are three proposed earmarks totaling $1,400,000 for the Readnet Foundation in the pending HHS appropriations bill.

The three earmarks are:

$1,000,000 -  Online literacy program for at-risk youth in Hudson, NY

$300,000 - Online program for school and public libraries in Newport, Jamestown, Middletown, and Portsmouth, Rhode Island 

$100,000 -  Literacy initiative in Erie and Niagara programs

Robin Hubbard and her husband, William N. Hubbard, of 116 E. 63rd St., New  York City, contributed $1,000 in 2003, $1,000 in 2004 and $2,200 in 2006 to the campaign of Rep. John E. Sweeney.

Otherwise, the Hubbards' Democratic credentials are impeccable. For example, they were co-chairmen of Sen. John Kerry's presidential campaign because they bundled more than $50,000 in contributions.

Over the years, the Hubbards have contributed more than $3,300 to Rep. Jerry Nadler's campaign and more than $5,000 to Rep. Carolyn Maloney's campaign. They have contributed to the campaigns of Senator Chuck Schumer, Rep. Anthony Weiner and Rep. Charles Rangel, among others.

According to Open Secrets, the Readnet Foundation spent $150,000 on DC lobbyists between 2003 and 2005 of which $50,000 went to Mcallister and Quinn.

A photo of Robin Hubbard with Rep. Sweeney and Under Secretary of Education Eugene Hickok accompanied a press release about National Charter School Week issued by the Center for Educaton Reform in May 2003.  

In November 2004, Rep. Sweeney issued a press release announcing a $275,000 federal grant for the Readnet Foundation to expand a web-based educational program in Hudson New York. 

I don't know if the Readnet Foundation's literacy software is effective but I do know that Robin D. Hubbard is a failed educator and failed businesswoman who has engaged in questionable financial practices.

In an April 3, 2006 New York Times story, "In Death of Bronx Charter School, A Wider Problem", Elissa Gootman wrote about the failure of the Readnet Bronx Charter School after only two years of operation. Almost $3 million in public financing could not adequately be accounted for by Robin Hubbard and the project was poorly managed from the onset.

Bob Somerby of the Daily Howler wrote a scathing three-part article about the school after the New York Times story was published. He criticized the New York State Department of Education for not providing proper oversight and pointed out that the school did not appear to have a realistic educational plan. 

I reviewed the 990s filed by the Readnet Foundation and the Readnet Bronx Charter School (available at the Foundation Center's 990 Finder) and the quality of the financial information is poor.     

The Readnet Foundation incurred a net deficit of more than $900,000 by the end of 2004. To put the size of the $1,400,000 proposed earmark in perspective, the foundation received approximately $400,000 in government funding in both 2002 and 2003 and $198,000 in 2004.

Of the $298,00 spent by the Readnet Foundation in 2004, $50,000 went to Mcallister & Quinn, the foundation's lobbyists.  

Besides the contributions to John Sweeney's campaign, the Hubbards have contributed to the campaign of Sheldon Whitehouse of Rhode Island who is a Democrat running for the Senate.

I assume that the contributions are somehow linked to the proposed $300,00 earmark for Readnet Foundation's literacy program in Rhode Island.

$1,400,000 in federal grants is a lot of money to award to an organization run by someone with a poor track record managing public funding. I think  someone should be asking Rep. John E. Sweeney about the basis for his support of the Readnet Foundation.