Some thoughts on DeRay Mckesson’s campaign

According to newly released campaign finance forms, DeRay Mckesson, the national Black Lives Matter activist running for Baltimore mayor, has had far and away more individual donors to his campaign than any other candidate in the race. Over 4,500 people from across the country have helped him to raise nearly $223,000, and a majority were small donors.

Of that $223,000, though, just 4.2% came from Baltimore. By contrast, donors from four states—California, New York, Massachusetts, and Florida—contributed more than half of all his funds.

I have no issue with Mckesson running, and would argue that he’s introduced some pretty valuable policy ideas to the primary debates. Yet the way national media has largely ignored the other candidates, suggested he’s been the only person proposing police reform, and just failed to do any serious reporting on the race or the city, has been pretty frustrating to watch. (Local outlets have done a much, much better job.)

Anyway, on Tuesday Re/code reported on Mckesson’s campaign finance forms, and noted that he received a lot of money from tech executives.

Taking a look myself, I found that the biggest donors to Mckesson’s campaign were an assemblage of individuals involved in the education reform movement, working in the tech industry, alumni of Bowdoin College, celebrities, real estate developers, and a handful of others. (Some of these categories overlap; for example, some Bowdoin alumni work in the tech industry, and some tech CEOs support the education reform movement, etc.) I’ve put a list of notable donors at the bottom of this post.

I don’t have much to say for now, other than I’d love to learn more about why tech companies have taken such an interest in his campaign, and why real estate developers, especially those in Florida, have too. I’d also be curious to hear how his campaign is working on mobilizing Baltimore voters, since it was clear they hadn’t raised much money within the city. (He had about 250 donors from Baltimore as of March 15th.)

Earlier this week DeRay tweeted, “I’ve not taken money from the establishment funders who run Baltimore city politics.”

A day earlier he wrote,

His comments raise a really interesting question. Does taking money from companies and real estate developers in other states mean you have avoided establishment politics? I’m sure opinions would vary.

In early February I wrote a Slate piece saying that despite his national reputation with the Black Lives Matter movement, DeRay’s education reform ties would likely garner more attention in the Baltimore mayoral race. Education is politically fraught in the city, and all Democratic candidates were already open to, and talking about, police reform.

In the weeks thereafter, Baltimore residents pressed Mckesson to clarify his views on school reform. While the education policy platform he released in early February did not mention charter schools, unions, or Teach for America, voters continually asked him about these issues. Residents raised questions at candidate forums, journalists questioned him in interviews, and voters discussed and debated his education ties on social media.

Towards the end of February, Mckesson’s campaign posted a lengthy “reality check” on its website—a response to some of the concerns and criticisms he had been receiving.


Examples included:


Though I certainly believe Mckesson does not work for Teach for America, and has decided to run because he genuinely wants to, I think it’s hardly conspiratorial to acknowledge that he is receiving thousands of dollars from them—from their PAC, their allies, and from a number of current and former TFA staffers across the country.


Education Reform:

  • Leadership for Education Equity PAC: $2000
    (Commonly known as LEE, the PAC to elect TFA alumni)
  • New Yorkers for Putting StudentsFirst: $500
  • Matthew Kramer, former CEO of Teach For America: $400
  • Jessica Kramer, Senior Managing Director of Alumni Engagement for Teach for America: $500
  • Leslie Miller Saiontz, Board Chairman of Teach For America in Miami: $2,500
  • Kwame Griffith, Executive Vice President of Regional Operations for Teach for America: $200
  • Brian Johnson, Vice President for Regional Impact at Leadership for Educational Equity: $1,000
  • Brianna Twofoot, Vice President for Diversity and Equity at Leadership for Educational Equity: $250
  • Bradford Derrell, Executive Director of NYCAN: $250
  • Kira Orange Jones, Executive Director Teach for America New Orleans: $250
  • William Graves, Executive Director at the John & Denise Graves Foundation: $250
  • Wendy Kopp, CEO and Co-Founder of Teach For All: $100
  • Jonathan Marker, CEO at Youth Leadership Institute: $250
  • Jessica Marker, Head of Knowledge Development for Teach for America: $250
  • Mark Fraley, Senior Advisor for Advocacy and Organizing at Leadership for Educational Equity (LEE): $100
  • Darin Yankowitz, Chief of Staff, Regional Operations at Teach for America: $100
  • Judy Wurtzel, Director of Education at the Charles and Lynn Schusterman Family Foundation: $200
  • Ifeyinwa Walker, The Offor Walker Group: $1,000


  • Stewart Butterfield, co-founder of Flickr and Slack: $6,000
  • Esther R. Dickens, Google: $500
  • Malik Ducard, Global Head of Family and Learning at YouTube: $2,500
  • Myles Grant, Principal Engineer at Slack: $200
  • Reed Hastings, CEO of Netflix: $6,000
  • Ashley Mosley, Marketing and Sales Twitter: $500
  • Chris Kaminski, Fugue Inc, a venture­backed software startup: $500
  • Gisel Kordestani, Crowdpac: $6,000
  • Omid Kordestani, Executive Chairman at Twitter: $6,000


  • Harrison Barnes, NBA player: $3,000
  • Rashida Jones, Actress: $2,000
  • Susan Sarandon, Actress: $600
  • Jesse Williams, Actor: $3,000
  • Sean Kleier, Actor: $350


  • Jeffrey Lamkin, the Retina Group of Northeast Ohio: $500
  • Beth Azor, of Azor Advisory Services, a Florida-based commercial real estate advisory and investment firm: $1000
  • Stephen H. Bittel, Terranova Corporation, a Florida-based commercial real estate firm: $2,500
  • Mark Friedland, an Aspen-based real estate developer, private investor and entrepreneur: $500
  • Gerson, Preston, Robinson & Company PA, a Florida-based public accounting firm: $1000
  • Kevin Letorneau, Online Buddies: $6,000
  • Katherine Vizas, Intercontinental Exchange, a network of regulated exchanges and clearinghouses for financial and commodity markets: $1000
  • Brooks Washington, Roha Ventures, a venture investment group that builds and launches companies across Africa: $1,000
  • Jason Weiss, Terrapin Palisades Ventures, a private investment firm focused on land-based assets: $500
    Melvyn Schlesser, Jameck Development Inc, a Miami-based property development and management company: $500
  • Michel LePage, real estate agent in Yarmouth: $250

Bowdoin College Alum:

  • Deborah Barker, Trustee: $1000
  • Alexandra Codina, Filmmaker: $500
  • Barry Mills, former college president: $6,000
  • Michael LoBiondo, Senior Director at Warner Brothers Records: $500
  • Jackson Wilkinson, website developer: $500


  • Kim Coco Iwamoto, Commissioner on the Hawaii Civil Rights Commission: $6,000
  • Henry Louis Gates, Harvard Historian: $1,000
  • Suzanne Lehmann: $1,000
  • Aaron Sojourner, Economist at the University of Minnesota: $500
  • Eric Vittinghoff, Biostatistician at UCSF School of Medicine: $500
  • Ebonie Williams, Computer Scientist at the Defense Information Systems Agency: $500
  • Roger Luke DuBois, Associate Professor of Integrated Digital Media at NYU: $1,250
  • Margaret Savarino, Seattle-based writer: $750
  • Deborah Kaplan, Safari Books Online: $500



One thought on “Some thoughts on DeRay Mckesson’s campaign

  1. Also, the money is going both ways: they paid “Leadership for Education Equality” (a typo, they mean Leadership for Education Equity) $1,500 for consulting fees.


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