National proponents of school vouchers are determined to make their mark in Georgia this year. How do I know? They are playing with big dollars, in our primary.

Torrey O. Johnson, Graham Balch, Shawn James, Kenneth Samuel, David Wilkerson, Rep. Tom Weldon, Josh Clark and Sen. John Wiles- all are candidates for the Georgia legislature, and all benefit from independent expenditures for direct mail funded by an organization called, “American Federation for Children Action Fund-Georgia Independent,” an entity registered as an independent committee with the Georgia State Ethics Committee. So far, the group reports spending $27,910.24 on Johnson, Balch, James and Samuel and $10, 517.84 on Wilkerson, Weldon, Wiles and Clark. But, based on the amount of national money being funneled through this committee, look for that total to increase.

Johnson, Balch, Samuel and Wilkerson are all Democrats challenging incumbent Democrats. (Don’t you love when that happens?) Shawn James is a Democrat running for an open seat in HD75 against Kristy Dubuisson and Yasmin Neal. Rep. Tom Weldon and Sen. John Wiles are incumbent Republicans who face challengers in the primary, and Josh Clark is a Republican with primary opposition for an open seat in HD98.

Because I knew you’d ask, this independent committee registered with the State Ethics Commission in mid-May, and since then has received two contributions of $40K each and one contribution of $23K, all from The American Federation for Children Action Fund, a pro-voucher group based in Washington, D.C.

Groups that make independent expenditures are not allowed to coordinate with the candidates their efforts benefit, but you can be sure of this: they chose to support candidates they believe will support the mission of the organization. In fact, the group’s website invites contributions to several entities, including their PAC if you like to “support school choice candidates.” If you still have any doubt about their agenda, check out the interactive map. So, either these candidates support school vouchers, or AFC needs a new research director.

By the way, in addition to my personal opposition to vouchers, I believe that this cycle, when we are furloughing teachers, vouchers as a concept are political Kryptonite in Georgia. So, let me invite the Democrats who have been blessed with the mail to stand up and tell us their position on school vouchers.*

Georgia leadership includes Cobb School Board member, David Morgan as a “Government Affairs Associate” and Jamie Self as a “Government Affairs Advisor.”

(I should acknowledge that I must have some sort of illness that causes me to sit inside on a Friday afternoon and do this kind of research. Before you judge, you have it, too because you are reading this.)

*Graham Balch phoned to say that he is opposed to vouchers and that the American Federation for Children knows that he is opposed to vouchers. He says that he does support merit pay and that his position on education reform is exactly the same as President Obama’s. I told him he could send me a statement, and I would add it to the post, but he was at an event, so this will have to do for now.

23 Responses to Who’s Been Painting Our Roses Red? (Updated)

  1. JMPrince says:

    While I’m not enamored of this disclosure, I do know, like & respect David Wilkerson. I still think this is valuable information to have, thanks again to Amy. And as I occasionally remind fewer & fewer people (as it seems to be wholly misplaced & miscast in today’s politics), it ‘was once said’: On lobbyists – “If you can’t eat their food, drink their booze, screw their women and still vote against them, you have no business being up here.” Jesse Unruh (D, CA, <1970?)

    And yeah, I know, you just can't say that anymore. And all too many of them just go the other way! The best answer of course is supporting better candidates better. And organizations who do so. Generously. JMP

  2. parker404 says:

    All Children Matter also supported several legislative candidates in 2008, including Keisha Waites.

  3. BlackGal says:

    Love this site

  4. Matt says:

    Can I just say that Shawn James is NOT a Democrat? He ran in the the special election last year as a Republican and talked about bringing other blacks into the Republican Party. Like Mike Frisbee (who’s primarying David Scott), Shawn James is a “Democrat” of convenience.

    Second, I’m disappointed in Wilkerson, Johnson, and Samuel, all of whom I have been inclined to like.

  5. Amy Morton says:

    Regardless of who got the money, based on the information on their website, THE issue of this organization is vouchers. When I talked with Graham, he agreed with me about that. I believe that they put their money in the races where they believe they will be able to elect candidates likely to support their agenda. How did Wix vote on Alisha’s legislation on parents being able to choose any school in the district?

  6. Jules says:

    Wix recvd 2K from the All Children Matter last cycle…so where are we punditry?

  7. Deb A says:

    I asked Graham about this group when I got my 1st flyer from them last week. He total me point blank at that time that he does not support vouchers, but does support merit pay which this PAC supposedly does support. So his comment to you today is right in line with what he told me last week. I just say this because I want it to be clear that he wasn’t merely saying something today for expediency sake.

  8. Jules says:

    I’m surprised by wilkerson, we was frm chair of cobb dem party..and frankly we NEVER saw Wix at anything till he had a serious challenger…I’m not conviced this is a cabal..sounds like he found a group who would support him obviously the caucus could not.

  9. Drew says:

    Opened my mail today . . . and I have two more mailers from the American Federation For Children – neither of which mention education, but both of which recycle Graham Balch’s attacks on Fort.

  10. Amy Morton says:

    The politics of appeasement never work. In states that have pulled themselves from the clutches of the red sea, groups have formed for professionals typically associated with organizations like GAE and GTLA, but who disagree with the approach. In Texas, the “democratic” trial lawyers group is called “Texans for Insurance Reform.” They have been a key player is making good things happen there. We need such alternatives here.

  11. Jason says:

    States are beholden to the locals and the locals have been infiltrated. End of story. The ‘core values’ go out the window. Christ, because GAE didn’t endorse a candidate for Governor, the chairwoman, GAE area-rep, and PAC co-founder/treasurer, all Republicans, tried to tell the rest of us because they had met with him, and he seemed like such a nice guy, that we should cut a $2000 check to Nathan Deal!

    30 seconds of research showed that he got a 17% rating from NEA… they probably went ahead and did it anyway.

  12. Amy Morton says:

    Oh, yes, that’s right. Sometimes I forget where I live.

  13. Jason says:

    Um… it is being given away to the likes of Wiles, Calvin Rhodes, etc.. My PAC is supposed to stand for something. The only thing they have done is manage to support pro-voucher Republicans because they are in power. It is complete horseshit.

  14. Amy Morton says:

    I stumbled upon it. I was looking at PACs and independent committees to see who had the most dough. Didn’t expect to find this and, frankly, it made me sad. That lasted 30 seconds, and then I realized that if we want to influence elections, we have to not allow them to play alone in this sandbox. Where’s the national money for candidates who want to fully fund public schools, for example?

  15. Jason says:

    Yeah… I am going to jump off a roof now. My local GAE PAC… CCAE, endorsed and gave $1000 to both Wilkerson and Wiles. The Wiles one chaps my ass the most… it was over pro-public education and former school board member Lindsey Tippins.

  16. Amy! Thank you so much for this. I’ve been trying to find the time to do something similar.

    Let me just say that I had an exchange with Richard DeVos when I was a student at Grand Valley State Colleges (now a university) back in the 70’s. DeVos was on the board of regents and I was in student leadership. We were having a discussion about tuition increases and he kept referring to “increasing the value of the product” (the product being students) if they increased the cost. I came away from that discussion feeling like a box of soap. DeVos is a right-wing idealogue with more money than sense. But, he is beloved in the Grand Rapids area for reviving a dying city.

    Anyway, thanks, Amy.

    • JMPrince says:

      Jay-Zus, that’s pretty chilling realizing all these years later that the DeVos name is or has been associated with every far right wing cause since the mid-80’s, including founding several RTL ventures. Really cute astro-turffing there tho. Thanks for the memories, not of the yet distant past either. JMP

  17. Amy Morton says:

    Ah, yes, the Amway connection. If bingo doesn’t work for schools, then pyramid marketing schemes might.

  18. Drew says:

    I checked this organization out after they sent me a mailer asking me to vote for Graham Balch. It was good; I wouldn’t have guessed it was a pro-privatization organization if I hadn’t looked it up.

    In addition to everything above, I’ll note that the current chair is Betsy DeVos, former chair of the Michigan Republican Party and wife of Dick DeVos, the Republican candidate for governor of Michigan in 2006. Also, founder of Amway. The site has a lovely picture of her and Chris Christie, Republican governor of Michigan.

  19. Amy Morton says:

    Republicans are of little use when we have Democrats willing to carry the water on these issues.
    Yes, I noticed that All Children Matter stopped filing as of Dec. 31. I also noticed that David Morgan is not listed on the registration for this group. The Georgia contact is Allen Hughes.

  20. Bernita says:

    In 2008, this same group was called “All Children Matters PAC” – http://www.blogfordemocracy.org/2008/05/the_spouses_are_also_running_for_office.html I guess they will keep changing their name each political cycle.

    Shawn James also received the Georgia Right to Life endorsement – http://www.grtl.org/docs/2010%20Primary%20Endorsements-House.pdf