Sunday, September 30, 2007

Show me the money

"Wilcox said the group was planning to donate to other conservative causes around the country, including one in Utah to create school vouchers."

That sentence from an article in the Los Angeles Times the other day caught my eye. The article itself was about a California ballot initiative effort that was folding due to lack of interest and financial support. Apparently the issue - to divide that state's electoral college votes by Congressional district - attracted only one large donor.

Of course, in keeping with the same loyalty to secrecy that Utah's Parents for Choice in Education has, the California ballot organizers would not say who the one large donor was. You can read the entire article here.

Secrecy aside, this reference to the movement of pro-voucher money into Utah isn't surprising. We should expect to see money move into the state. But, as I've said before, we know where the money is coming from for the Against Referendum 1 side. It is coming from Utah public school teachers and teachers across the nation.

What is so puzzling is why PCE and the pro-voucher groups are so reluctant to say who is donating to them.

Who contributed the $270,000 that the PCE Foundation and PCE, Inc. "donated" to the PCE political action committee, as reported in this Deseret News article?

It's obvious that PCE will be increasing its spending. They won't have far to go to raise money (I'll explain below). Even PCE spokesperson Leah Barker admitted they would be bringing in out-of-state organizers, and hiring an out-of-state consulting firm.

There is a "call" on this weblog for young people telling them they can earn $6,000 in Utah to work to try and pass the private school voucher law. Additionally, they get money for meals - and their transportation is paid! These out of state PCE "helpers" will expect to get their money, as will the blogger who wrote that he would land in Utah on September 30 (today). Bob Aagard has some information on the out-of-state blogger here.

So if we know that PCE is spending money on organizers, as well as on TV advertising, and we know some shadowy donor will no longer be funding a ballot issue in California but will be sending money to Utah, who is that donor? Or, is it a group of donors?

Hard to say. That is, until PCE comes clean and tells us who is funding their effort.

Of course, there is always an opportunity to speculate on where or who the money is coming from.

Here I found a list of the Top Ten donors to school voucher programs. They include the funders I wrote about before - Tim Draper from California and Dick DeVos from Michgan. Also included on this list is the Walton Family Foundation. (Did you know your Wal-Mart purchases helped fund the pro-voucher movement? I didn't!) Apparently there also are a few other deep-pocketed pro-voucher gurus from states as far from Utah as New Jersey, Wisconsin, and Texas.

Interestingly, these same names of individuals and foundations appear on the list of donors to the so-called "Alliance for School Choice." It's the "Alliance for School Choice" that founded the "All Children Matter" pro-voucher PAC that bases its operations in Virginia (where there are no limits on campaign donations) and Michigan.

And, it's that very same "All Children Matter" PAC that spent so much money on state legislative races in Utah and elsewhere as reported by Brock Vergakis of the Associated Press here.

Or is PCE being funded by rich Libertarians? The 2006 property rights and tax cap issues on the ballot from Maine to Idaho to California and Arizona were funded by one wealthy donor, Howie Rich from New York City. You can learn all about Howie and his causes here where there is a blow-by-blow analysis of Howie's failed efforts last year.

But, another one of Howie Rich from New York City's causes is private school vouchers, as he heads another pro-voucher front group "Parents in Charge" Foundation, or Inc. or LEAD - whichever name he's calling it today.

Howie Rich from New York City has single handedly been funding a private school voucher scheme in South Carolina, as reported by this Daily Kos weblog. (Well, actually, according to that reporter, Howie was trying to buy the whole STATE of South Carolina. Frightening, but true.)

So, is Howie Rich from New York City funding the Utah private voucher school effort? After all, Howie Rich spent from $9 to $11 MILLION on the failed tax cap measures alone.

Since Howie is a rich and devoted Libertarian, it could be him. The Utah Libertarian Party issued a release last week encouraging support for an unaccountable private school voucher program. In it they wrote:

"Allowing parents to use some of the wealth extorted from taxpayers to place their children in voluntarily-attended learning environments will help decentralize the dangerous, gun-run school system..."

"Wealth extorted from taxpayers"? "The dangerous gun-run school system"? I think they are alluding to Utah's system of public schools, but I can't be sure.

Of course, the Libertarian Party is given to extremes. Party members are so committed to supporting the individual over government that they support legalizing drugs and prostitution, and even call for the repeal of laws and amendments that ban gay marriage. Lest you think I jest, you can find the Libertarian Party platform here.

Now, if the good folks at PCE want to run from the tenants of the Libertarian Party, including its devotion to legal drugs, legal prostitution, and gay marriage, then that is fine. Understandable, even.

Just tell us who your donors really are. Inquiring minds want to know.

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