Wednesday, April 1, 2009

Did ReDonna Rodgers Write Her Own Campaign Platform?

By Lisa Kaiser
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One of the more fascinating e-mails among the 300-plus e-mails on ASA’s Yahoo Group is the one sent by ASA member Anne Curley on Feb. 17, to ReDonna Rodgers.

Rodgers was recruited by ASA-er member Kevin Ronnie to run against MPS Board President Peter Blewett. Ronnie lost to Blewett in 2005, so I and many others have been considering the Blewett-Rodgers match-up as a proxy war waged by Ronnie and his voucher advocate pals at ASA.

According to the Feb. 17 e-mail, Curley drafted ReDonna Rodgers’ platform, to be used in campaign literature and on her website.

Here’s how Anne put it:

“ReDonna,

I’ve filled in the blanks on this piece and made the wise changes suggested by various people to eliminate references that could cause problems for you.

I also re-formatted this so that, if you are comfortable with it as is, we can print it in booklet style to turn it into a six-page supplementary handout for people who require more than just your campaign brochure. If you like, I’ll be happy to make copies for your fundraiser on Thursday after you’ve had a chance to make any desired changes.

I also believe this could be posted pretty much as is—once you’re comfortable with the content—on your website to replace what’s currently on your 'Issues' page.”

So Curley wrote a draft, had others comment on it, is ready to print it—who’s the “we” Curley’s working with, anyway?—and is willing to make copies for Rodgers’ fundraiser.

Curley is on the “ASA Executive Committee.” What she provided to Rodgers is clearly worth something. Don’t you think that would show up on Rodgers’ campaign finance reports?

Nope. Nothing was paid by Rodgers to Curley for her efforts. There’s no “in-kind” contribution, either, to show that Curley provided something of value to the campaign.

What does appear is $194.22 reimbursement to—you guessed it—Kevin Ronnie for “Kinkos copies reimbursement” on March 6.

Things that make you go hmmm….

Back to Curley’s e-mail:

“Of course, you and Eric have to be happy with what’s being said. But I am taking the liberty of assuming that you pretty much are, based on your reaction to the first draft.”

Eric… Eric… Who’s Eric? Could it be ReDonna’s campaign manager, Eric Hogensen, of Hogensen Strategies Group? The guy that Rodgers paid $1,500 on Feb. 20—three days after Anne Curley sent this e-mail—and $4,950.95 on March 10?

Isn’t Eric a co-founder of ASA with Bruce Thompson? It’s interesting that even though Eric and Thompson apparently parted ways that Hogensen is the campaign manager/adviser/consultant for ASA-approved candidates.

Sorry, I digress. The rest of Curley’s e-mail is revealing:

“You will note that this piece highlights three schools and several programs that are working at MPS. Assuming you agree with including these examples (which I got from Deb Lindsey, head of research for MPS), it will be important for you to visit the three schools ASAP so you know what you’re talking about. Likewise, you will need to talk to the program officer at the Bader Foundation who is responsible for the Homework First program. And you will need to have a chat with [XXX] who can fill you in on the Violence-Free Zone, Restorative Justice and Love and Logic programs.”

So I took at look at Rodgers’ site, and—surprise!—there are some examples of successful MPS schools and the specific programs Curley researched and wrote about.

But isn’t it terribly sad that Rodgers, a candidate for office, has to be told to brush up on material that appears on her own website—“ASAP”—because it was written by somebody else who apparently wasn’t even compensated for it? I can understand outsourcing campaign materials to a professional writer—and Curley’s a former Milwaukee Journal business editor who now runs a PR company specializing in “brand management”—but not to “know what you’re talking about,” as Curley puts it, is pretty disingenuous, if you ask me.

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