Friday, March 27, 2009

The Payoff

By Lisa Kaiser
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Sorry to sound like a broken record, but I’m having a hard time believing that Advocates for Student Achievement (ASA) is, as they claim, simply a “good government group” interested in fielding quality candidates for the MPS board and not a pro-voucher, pro-privatization front group that's trying to swing the election.

Take, for example, support for the three candidates ASA recruited for the April 7 elections: Annie Woodward, ReDonna Rodgers and David Voeltner.

ASA—notably MPS board member Bruce Thompson, one of the biggest voucher supporters in the city, and someone who would love to be president of the MPS board of directors—worked with the candidates closely. Annie Woodward, one of the candidates, admitted to me in an interview a few weeks ago that ASA recruited her to run and she’s been meeting with them regularly for strategy sessions.

But ASA was also drumming up support for their candidates throughout the business community. ASA benefited from a fundraiser sponsored by MMAC, joined forces with the Greater Milwaukee Association of Realtors to recruit candidates, and even sent out e-mails asking for donations to the three candidates. But if it was too inconvenient for donors to write multiple checks to the three individual candidates, the Milwaukee Fund for Public Education, a pro-voucher conduit formerly run by Bruce Thompson, would be happy to take the money and disburse it accordingly, the “ASA Executive Committee” helpfully explained.

Unfortunately, ASA hasn’t filed any campaign finance forms with the City Election Commission. It’s sort of ridiculous, if you ask me. I mean, ASA was co-founded in 2007 by Bruce Thompson, who is an elected official. ASA’s treasurer is Joe Dannecker, a former MPS board member. These guys should know that PACs must file finance reports with the city. There are only two explanations, if you ask me: A) they’re incompetent or B) they didn’t want the public to know what they were up to.

Anyhoo—March 30 is another campaign finance reporting deadline. Some of those reports are already coming in to the Government Accountability Board, and they show that ASA’s efforts are paying off for their candidates:

  • MMAC’s PAC contributed $500 to Annie Woodward on Feb. 13. Woodward is running against Michael Mathias for Charlene Hardin’s soon-to-be-vacated seat.

  • MMAC’s conduit contributed $1,050 to ReDonna Rodgers on March 26. Rodgers is running against MPS Board President Peter Blewett on the city’s west side.

  • The Milwaukee Fund for Public Education contributed $500 to ReDonna Rodgers on March 26 and $500 to David Voeltner on March 26. Voeltner is running against Donna Peck on the city's south side.

That fund, by the way, dumped $50,000 into pro-voucher candidates’ campaigns just before the 2003 election.

Even though these outfits have already filed their forms with the state, they can make late contributions up until the election on April 7. They just need to file another form. I’ll keep you updated when more campaign finance reports are filed.

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