Monday, December 22, 2008

Dame Caroline's record as school booster: "She hardly left a vapor trail"

Taking a close look at Caroline Kennedy's much-ballyhooed record as a fundraiser and booster for New York City public schools -- which is her only claimed public policy accomplishment -- Politico found that the Camelot Princess may not have done much except lend her famous name and occasional presence to the school system.

For one thing, she wasn't there much:

As often as not, [co-workers] were greeted by an empty chair. “I’d get it all the time – ‘Why isn’t Caroline at her desk?’” said a person who worked closely with Kennedy, who ran the Department of Education division that oversaw public-private partnerships from 2002 to 2004.

She may be taking -- or getting -- credit for heavy lifting with donors she didn't do:

[Co-workers] say the 51-year-old lawyer and author, while a dedicated advocate for the schools, was less a traditional fundraiser than a highly credible department spokeswoman who used her name to keep big-money donors from fleeing the cash-strapped system. “She brought us a lot of visibility,” said a person who worked directly with Kennedy, speaking on condition of anonymity.

“There was not a lot of fundraising by her personally, but there was a lot of strategizing – ‘Here’s what this organization might do for us,’ – that kind of thing…Her main task was helping to rebuild the credibility of the school system, not directly raising money.”

One business executive familiar with her efforts said that Kennedy provided “star power, not fundraising muscle.”

The friendly press noticed back in 2004:

When she left, the New York Times wrote: “For months after she started, even some high-level education officials said they were not quite sure what she did. In an interview about eight months into her tenure, she would not say how often she worked at the department headquarters or how many hours she spent on the job, saying only, 'I put in as much time as I can.'"

Even the major fundraising accomplishment that her chum and supporter, school's Chancellor Joel Klein, has publicly attributed to her may have been the work of others less celebrated:

When Klein, speaking to the Times, credited Kennedy with securing $51 million from the Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation for small schools, Wayne Barrett of the Village Voice tracked down officials who claimed the grant was actually set up by Klein deputy Michele Cahill.

None of this should surprise anyone. Caroline Kennedy is a fine and gracious lady. She's lived nearly all of her life sheltered from publicity and public responsibilities. Who can blame her, when she's been chased by paparazzi whenever she's emerged. But nothing in her record -- least of all her role at the New York City schools, it seems -- has prepared her for high office.

1 comment:

  1. [Co-workers] say the 51-year-old lawyer and author

    In what sense is she a lawyer or an author? She never practiced and let her license lapse. She never 'wrote' anything but did lend her name to coauthored books. She may or may not be fine and gracious - who really knows. It certainly would make her an exception among that generation of Kennedys. What she really is of course is a celebutante. The dabblings of the idle rich really aren't qualifications for a position of power.