Wealthy Voucher Donors Getting Choice Policy Payback: School privatization supporters outspend opponents $3 to $1

Madison – Supporters of Milwaukee's school choice program spent more than $3 million in 2009 and 2010 to help elect Governor Scott Walker and much of the GOP-controlled legislature while opponents spent a million dollars to elect mostly minority Democrats, a Wisconsin Democracy Campaign analysis shows.

Supporters of state-subsidized school privatization led by Wisconsin Manufacturers & Commerce, American Federation for Children and the Metropolitan Milwaukee Association of Commerce spent $3.36 million on mostly negative electioneering activities and direct campaign contributions to Walker, three fundraising committees run by legislative leaders and 66 legislators – most of them Republicans.

School choice opponents led by the Wisconsin Education Association Council, the state's largest teachers union, and two dozen local teachers unions spent $1 million on electioneering activities and direct contributions to three legislative fundraising committees and 52 legislators – most of them Democrats.

And since the elections last November, Walker and the legislature's majority Republicans have moved quickly to reward that support with proposals to substantially expand Milwaukee's 20-year-old school choice program which spent $130 million in taxpayer dollars this year to pay for about 20,200 pupils from low-income families to attend private and religious schools.

Walker, who received $125,220 in campaign contributions from school choice supporters in 2009 and 2010 during his campaign for governor, used his proposed 2011-2013 state budget to increase the number of pupils and schools that can participate in the program. Walker also proposed increasing state spending on school choice by $22.5 million while cutting state aid to K-12 public schools by about $840 million in his budget.

In addition to the direct campaign contributions, Walker was the beneficiary of $1.45 million in outside election spending by two of the school choice program's most powerful supporters. Wisconsin Manufacturers & Commerce, the state's largest business group, spent about $1 million to help Walker and the Milwaukee Association of Commerce made $446,450 in contributions to the Republican Governors Association, which spent $5 million in the 2010 elections on a barrage of ads and mailings to smear Walker's opponent.

Supporters of state-paid private schooling contributed $181,627 in 2009 and 2010 to current legislators and three legislative fundraising committees. Top recipients (Table 1) were newly elected Republican Senators Van Wanggaard of Racine at $14,399, Leah Vukmir of Wauwatosa at $13,250 and Terry Moulton of Chippewa Falls at $12,050.

Most of the largest individual contributors (Table 2) to the legislators and Walker were from outside Wisconsin and gave through the Fund for Parent Choice conduit. Conduits are legal check-bundling outfits created by school choice supporters and other special interest groups to bypass political action committee contribution limits. Conduits can take an unlimited number and amount of individual contributions and combine them to give the recipient one large check.

The parent choice conduit funneled $162,825 in contributions from 26 donors to Walker, current legislators and fundraising committees – $144,075, or 88 percent of those contributions came from Texas, California, Arkansas, Wyoming, Pennsylvania, Virginia, New Jersey, Michigan and Ohio. Most of the contributions to support Milwaukee's school choice program came from members of the Walton family, which owns Walmart, and their company political action committee which collectively contributed $97,600 in 2009 and 2010 to Walker and current legislators.

And only months after winning control of the legislature, Republicans refused to drop school choice eligibility provisions from Walker's proposed state budget even after the Legislative Fiscal Bureau identified them among four dozen policy items that should be considered as separate legislation. Republican legislators also have introduced bills that make some of the program changes sought by Walker in his budget. Those bills were approved recently by the Assembly on near party-line votes.

In addition to direct campaign contributions to the legislators, WMC spent about $900,000 and the American Federation for Children in Washington secretly raised and spent an estimated $730,000 during the 2010 elections mostly on negative broadcast ads and mailings to support Republican legislative candidates and an independent who won their races. The federation is a spin-off of All Children Matter, a Michigan-based shadowy electioneering group that spent $2.5 million to smear legislative and statewide candidates for office between 2004 and 2008.

Walker went to Washington to address the federation's May 9 event on school choice where he surprised many observers with talk of expanding taxpayer support of private and religious schools to other Wisconsin cities in the near future.

Betsy DeVos, who is chair of American Federation for Children, and her husband Dick, a Michigan billionaire and son of the co-founder of Amway Corporation, also founded and ran All Children Matter. Among the federation's other leaders is Scott Jensen, a former state Republican Assembly leader who was convicted on felony misconduct in office charges. The conviction was later overturned on a technicality and Jensen was ordered retried, but he managed to strike a deal to plead guilty to a misdemeanor ethics code violation and pay a $5,000 fine.

Those opposed to school choice and its expansion spent $785,513 on mostly negative outside electioneering activities and $217,734 on direct campaign contributions to support current legislators (Table 3). WEAC doled out $841,432 on outside electioneering activities, contributions to other electioneering groups and direct contributions to current legislators. Their spending included $354,763 on outside activities to support Democratic Senator Kathleen Vinehout of Alma, $230,750 in contributions to the Greater Wisconsin Political Fund, $150,000 to Advancing Wisconsin and $83,889 in PAC contributions and $22,030 in individual contributions through its Childrens Great School Fund conduit to three legislative fundraising committees and current legislators.

The Greater Wisconsin Political Fund and Advancing Wisconsin have spent millions of dollars in recent elections on advertising, mailings, canvassing and other outside electioneering activities to support Democratic candidates for statewide office and the legislature.

In addition to WEAC, two dozen local teachers unions contributed $99,174 to current legislators.

Another school choice opponent, the Wisconsin AFL- CIO, spent $58,515, including a $50,000 contribution to Citizens for a Progressive Wisconsin Political Fund, an outside electioneering group which backed the election of Democratic Senator Chris Larson of Milwaukee, and $8,515 in PAC contributions to two legislative fundraising committees and four Democrats who won their elections. Finally, the Association of Wisconsin School Administrators PAC contributed $4,126 in 2009 and 2010 to current legislators.

Table 1

Individual And Political Action Committee Contributions

To Governor Scott Walker And Legislators From School Choice Supporters

2009 – 2010

Name Party Amount

Scott Walker R $125,220

Van Wanggaard R $14,399

Leah Vukmir R $13,250

Terry Moulton R $12,050

Republican Assembly Campaign Committee R $12,000

Committee to Elect a Republican Senate R $7,500

Assembly Democratic Campaign Committee D $7,050

Frank Lasee R $7,050

Roger Rivard R $5,130

Pam Galloway R $4,749

Dale Schultz R $4,400

Joe Leibham R $4,300

Travis Tranel R $4,300

Jim Steineke R $4,300

Tom Larson R $4,250

Erik Severson R $4,050

Kathy Bernier R $4,000

John Klenke R $3,800

Andre Jacque R $3,500

Keith Ripp R $3,300

Mark Honadel R $3,300

Howard Marklein R $3,274

Mary Williams R $3,200

Lena Taylor D $2,925

Spencer Coggs D $2,800

Tom Tiffany R $2,550

John Murtha R $2,450

Alberta Darling R $2,450

Lee Nerison R $2,250

Jason Fields D $2,200

Garey Bies R $2,100

Karl Van Roy R $1,850

Dan Meyer R $1,650

Leon Young D $1,600

Luther Olsen R $1,400

Jeff Stone R $1,375

Amy Loudenbeck R $1,175

Scott Fitzgerald R $1,150

Neal Kedzie R $1,100

Evan Wynn R $1,100

Dean Knudson R $1,000

Jeffrey Mursau R $1,000

Tim Carpenter D $1,000

Randy Hopper R $1,000

Jim Holperin D $1,000

Dale Kooyenga R $1,000

Jerry Petrowski R $1,000

Jon Erpenbach D $800

Robin Vos R $750

Peggy Krusick D $750

Don Pridemore R $600

Bill Kramer R $600

Jim Ott R $550

John Nygren R $500

Warren Petryk R $500

Dave Hansen D $500

Kevin Petersen R $500

Richard Spanbauer R $500

Sandy Pasch D $500

Daniel LeMahieu R $450

Jeff Fitzgerald R $250

Tamara Grigsby D $250

Tyler August R $250

Scott Suder R $250

Barbara Toles D $250

Peter Barca D $200

Jon Richards D $100

Michael Ellis R $100

Josh Zepnick D $100

Rich Zipperer R $100

TOTAL $306,847

Table 2

Individual And Political Action Committee Contributions

From School Choice Supporters To Governor Scott Walker And Current Legislators

2009 – 2010

Name Location Employer/Affiliation Amount

Walmart Stores PAC Bentonville, AR Walmart $39,000

San & Joanne Orr Wausau, WI Bradley Foundation Board of Directors $25,100

Capitol Gains Club (conduit) Madison, WI Wisconsin Manufacturers & Commerce $22,948

Lynn & Jim Walton Bentonville, AR Walmart $17,450

Dennis & Sandy Kuester Milwaukee, WI Bradley Foundation Board of Directors $17,000

Carrie & Gregory Penner Menlo Park, CA Walmart $16,500

Alice Walton Millsap, TX Walmart $15,600

Susan & William Oberndorf San Francisco, CA SPO Partners $15,250

George & Susan Mitchell Whitefish Bay, WI School Choice Wisconsin $14,500

Dick & Betsy DeVos Grand Rapids, MI Alticor/Windquest $14,050

Richard & Sherry Sharp Richmond, VA School Choice $12,650

David & Julia Uihlein Milwaukee, WI Bradley Foundation Board of Directors $10,000

Milwaukee Police Association PAC Milwaukee, WI Milwaukee Police Association $9,650

Virginia James Lambertville, NJ Retired $9,600

Michael Grebe Milwaukee, WI Bradley Foundation Board of Directors $9,500

Christy Walton Jackson Hole, WY Walmart $9,050

Arthur Dantchik Gladwyne, PA SIG Financial Holdings $9,000

Joel Greenberg Gladwyne, PA SIG Financial Holdings $9,000

Jeff Yass Haverford, PA SIG Financial Holdings $9,000

Concerned Business & Industry PAC Madison, WI Wisconsin Manufacturers & Commerce $5,499

Howard Fuller

& Deborah McGriff Milwaukee, WI Marquette University/

New Schools Venture Fund $4,025

George Hume San Francisco, CA Basic American Foods $3,500

MMAC Conduit Milwaukee, WI Metro Milwaukee Association of Commerce $3,025

John Fisher San Francisco, CA Pisces Inc. $1,675

Ann Brennan Akron, OH White Hat Management $1,400

Metro Milwaukee Association

of Commerce PAC Milwaukee, WI Metro Milwaukee Association of Commerce $1,000

Wisconsin Family Action PAC Madison, WI Wisconsin Family Action $800

Milwaukee Professional

Fire Fighters 215 PAC Milwaukee, WI Milwaukee Professional Fire Fighters $500

Jim Blew Valencia, CA American Education Reform Council $350

John Robertstad Oconomowoc, WI Oconomowoc Memorial Hospital $125

Maureen Gallagher Waukesha, WI Waukesha Catholic School System $100

TOTAL $306,847

Table 3

Individual And Political Action Committee Contributions

To Current Legislators From School Choice Opponents

2009 – 2010

Name Party Amount

Spencer Coggs D $39,189

State Senate Democratic Committee D $36,000

Assembly Democratic Campaign Committee D $26,265

Dave Hansen D $17,924

Jim Holperin D $13,150

Robert Wirch D $11,900

Kathleen Vinehout D $5,816

Chris Larson D $4,580

David Cullen D $3,650

Sondy Pope-Roberts D $3,600

Janis Ringhand D $3,550

Janet Bewley D $3,400

Penny Bernard Schaber D $3,300

Andy Jorgensen D $2,650

Committee to Elect a Republican Senate R $2,500

Christine Sinicki D $2,250

Amy Sue Vruwink D $2,000

Gary Hebl D $2,000

Nick Milroy D $2,000

Terese Berceau D $2,000

Louis Molepske Jr. D $1,750

Mark Pocan D $1,750

Kelda Helen Roys D $1,700

Mark Radcliffe D $1,550

Cory Mason D $1,450

Fred Clark D $1,350

Bob Jauch D $1,200

Chris Danou D $1,200

Ed Brooks R $1,200

Brett Hulsey D $1,000

Elizabeth Coggs D $1,000

Frederick Kessler D $1,000

Jason Fields D $1,000

Jennifer Shilling D $1,000

JoCasta Zamarippa D $1,000

Josh Zepnick D $1,000

Tamara Grigsby D $1,000

Tony Staskunas D $1,000

Tim Carpenter D $950

Donna Seidel D $750

Robert Turner D $750

Dean Kaufert R $675

Barbara Toles D $500

John Steinbrink D $500

Jon Richards D $500

Leon Young D $500

Peter Barca D $500

Richard Spanbauer R $500

Sandy Pasch D $500

Jeff Stone R $250

Luther Olsen R $250

Randy Hopper R $250

Steve Kestell R $175

Mark Miller D $160

Stephen Nass R $150

TOTAL $217,734

Wisconsin Democracy Campaign, Tues May 24, 2011

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