Wealthy Voucher Donors Getting Choice Policy Payback

School privatization supporters outspend opponents $3 to $1

May 24, 2011

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