Friday, March 20, 2009

Citizen Action of Wisconsin Files a Complaint Against Advocates for Student Achievement and Three Candidates

By Lisa Kaiser
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A controversial “reform” group involved in the Milwaukee Public Schools campaigns—Advocates for Student Achievement (ASA)—is the target of a complaint by Citizen Action of Wisconsin.

The complaint, filed with the state Government Accountability Board this week, alleges that ASA and three candidates for the MPS board have not properly disclosed all of their activities.

According to the complaint, ASA is “illegally providing contributions to three Milwaukee School Board Campaigns”: Friends to Elect ReDonna Rodgers, Annie Woodward for Education, and Voeltner for School Board.

Those contributions include candidate orientation sessions, issue papers for candidates, continuing candidate education, volunteer recruitment, fundraising, express advocacy via email and possible express advocacy through a “push poll.”

State law requires political action committees (PACs) and candidates to report all of their contributions that are of value.

Robert Kraig of Citizen Action said that ASA's lack of disclosure runs counter to the “very important public purpose of campaign finance laws.”

The complaint and a potential GAB investigation would give the campaigns and ASA the opportunity to explain their actions, Kraig said.

“Our position is that there’s a pattern here that’s disturbing,” Kraig said.

A call to ASA has not been returned.

ASA has registered as a PAC with the City of Milwaukee, but as of this writing no ASA campaign finance disclosure forms have been found at the Milwaukee Election Commission.

The three candidates have filed required forms, but they have not reported ASA contributions on them.

The next campaign finance form deadline is March 30, one week before the April 7 election.

The Shepherd has reported on the ASA since its inception in 2007. The group laid out its blatantly political objective on its website: “In the April 2009 election, to offer Milwaukee voters the most highly qualified group of school board candidates in the city's history…to build a network of citizens who are invested in identifying, developing and electing strong school board candidates for future elections.”


ASA supporters—including MPS board member Bruce Thompson—have been longtime advocates for vouchers and increased privatization.

Since ASA’s campaign finance forms have not turned up, it’s difficult to know who is funding the group and how it’s spending its money.

As reported in the Shepherd, an email sent on Feb. 19 from the “ASA Executive Committee” asked for donations to the three candidates or to the Milwaukee Fund for Public Education, a pro-voucher group that dumped $50,000 into voucher-supporting incumbents’ races just before the 2003 board elections. It also requested volunteers to work on the campaigns’ door-to-door and phone bank activities.




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