Monday, October 6, 2014

Your (School) Choice: Dueling Educational Groups Send Out $185K Of Legislative Campaign Mailers (PLEASE, MR. POSTMAN) (#50ShadesOfDarkMoney)

Campaign mailers costing approximately $185,000 will be hitting mailboxes in several Arizona legislative districts this week, focusing on the related issues of education and school choice.  The mailers are coming from multiple sides of the issue, and all are hiding the sources of their funds, to one degree or another.

By far, the greater expenditure ($150,000) was disclosed today by the opaquely-named Arizona Accountability Project ("AAP").  The group is targeting four State Senate races, mostly with multiple mailers.  Two mailers have been prepared opposing Republican Mark Morrison (LD10), with three each in LD18 (opposing GOP nominee Jeff Dial), LD8 (opposing Republican Irene Littleton), and LD6 (two for independent Tom O'Halleran and one opposing GOP's Sylvia Allen).

On the other side of the education issue, and strongly in favor of school choice and vouchers, is the American Federation for Children ("AFC").  It is spending a total of approximately $35,000 in mailers supporting Dial and Allen, and also supporting Republican House candidates in those districts - Brenda Barton and Robert Thorpe in LD6 and Jill Norgaard in LD18 (pointedly ignoring GOP Rep. Bob Robson).

Arizona's Politics has announced a contest for readers sending in copies of campaign mailers.  If you receive one or more of the mailers in this article, please forward them (without identifying the addressee) to us.


AAP has not yet disclosed where its 2014 money is coming from, but in 2012, it received all of its $475,000 from Revitalize Arizona Now ("RAN").  In 2012, RAN received its largest contribution ($266,000) from the National Education Association's Advocacy Fund, and received other monies from unions and like-minded organizations.  Arizona's Politics has invited AAP and RAN to provide 2014 transparency before the (ridiculous) October 31 filing deadline, and will update as necessary.

Running funds through multiple organizations is generally designed to make the original donors less obvious.  AAP/RAN currently receives a medium gray shade of dark money - about a 20 on our scale
of 0 (transparent) to 50 (very dark).

AFC is a 501(c )(4) social non-welfare corporation that has received notoriety for its lack of disclosure, for its founders' backgrounds, for name changes and campaign fines.  It is led by Betsy DeVos, from the Amway and Blackwater families, and has received several million dollars from Walton family members.  These have not been disclosed by AFC (here is their most recent IRS filing from 2012), but has been uncovered by reporters during their involvement in other school choice campaigns in other states.  The website does not disclose any funding sources, either.

AFC receives a very dark gray shade of dark money - a number 40 on our scale.

We welcome your comments about this post. Or, if you have something unrelated on your mind, please e-mail to info-at-arizonaspolitics-dot-com or call 602-799-7025. Thanks.

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