Organized 5 years ago, Parents for Choice in Education has a grass-roots image and a name ready-made for focus groups. But it turns out most of the cash the advocacy group for private-school vouchers and tuition tax credits spreads around Utah in elections comes from big-business donors outside the state - including the Wal-Mart heirs and founders of multilevel marketing giant Amway.All Children Matter is a PAC that evolved from the Great Lakes Education Project, which Betsy and Dick DeVos organized in 2000 in order to push for private-school vouchers in Michigan, an initiative that voters soundly defeated. According to the Tribune, the DeVos family has spent a good chunk of their fortune on the PAC.
In 2002, with just $10,000, the PAC gave modest donations to a dozen conservative lawmakers and candidates. The next year was even leaner. Only six candidates received cash. But in 2004, all that changed with $255,000 in seed money from Michigan-based All Children Matter.
Curiously, Parents for Choice in Education refuses to comment about the organization's financing until September - a federal tax deadline that coincides with a state deadline for political action committee disclosure forms.
"Nobody's going to comment," communications director Nancy Pomeroy said. When pressed about the sources of Parents for Choice's money, specifically All Children Matter, Pomeroy said: "I don't know what you're talking about."Why the secrecy? It's well-known that in addition to Utah several other states, including Florida, Louisiana, Ohio, Missouri, Virginia and Wisconsin, already receive a share of the PAC's funding. All Children Matter Director Greg Brock wasn't willing to provide answers either. He declined to talk about how much money the Michigan PAC is sending west this election year until September, for "strategic reasons." The strategy is clear according to the Tribune:
So far, tax-credit advocates have targeted moderate, public-education friendly legislators, many of them schoolteachers. And the tactic already has worked: Lehi Rep. David Cox, a fifth-grade teacher, lost his bid for re-election at the Utah County Republican convention in April. His opponent, Ken Sumsion, got $3,545 from Parents for Choice and Utah Working Moms and Dads.Questions about the PAC's funding extend to Texas too.
"That money made the biggest difference," Cox said. "They were researching my record a year ago to find any bills they could twist to make me look bad. I couldn't compete with the level of sophistication and expertise that was brought in."
[In March,] Texas Freedom Network President Kathy Miller... asked state election officials to investigate whether two political action committees funded by the state’s biggest private school voucher pusher have complied with campaign finance laws.According to the Center for Public Integrity, the All Children Matter PAC has not filed any reports of financial activity this year.
One complaint Miller filed with the Texas Ethics Commission asks whether the Texas Republican Legislative Campaign Committee (TRLCC) –- funded almost entirely by San Antonio businessman Dr. James Leininger –- has met legal requirements before making campaign expenditures. The other notes that All Children Matter PAC –- a beneficiary of large Leininger contributions over the years –- may not have reported all of its contributions. [...]
All Children Matter PAC reported a December 2005 in-kind contribution of $54,360 for polling services to The Future of Texas Alliance PAC. (The Leininger-funded Future of Texas Alliance has so far backed pro-voucher candidates in the Republican primary.) Yet All Children Matter PAC reported a cash-on-hand balance of just $2,168.95 in July and has reported no income since. In fact, the PAC even failed to make monthly reports for August and September 2005. As a result, voters have no way of knowing how the PAC is accounting for the more than $52,000 difference in income and expenditures.
It appears that DeVos is cut from the same cloth as George Bush, Tom DeLay and the rest of the corrupt Republican establishment who wheel and deal behind the scenes, swift-boat their opponents and fail to be totally transparent. It also appears that DeVos hopes to become governor so he can use the position - and his wealth - not to promote the common good, but to further influence his extreme conservative economic and social agendas.
Update: Here's a related link: Michigan Campaign Finance Network - DeVos Dollars and "Education Choice"