Monday, October 30, 2006
Voucher supporters pouring money into Missouri legislative campaigns
You won't find it on his campaign finance disclosure reports, but Bob Behnen, R-Kirksville, has been the beneficiary of more than $33,000 supporting his candidacy for 18th District state senator from a national group that is pushing for educational vouchers.
According to its eight days before election filing with the Missouri Ethics Commission, All Children Matter, based in Michigan, has invested more than $100,000 in this election with a third of it going to Rep. Behnen's attempt to succeed John Cauthorn. Cauthorn cannot run again because of term limits.
The Missouri chapter of All Children Matter received $200,000 in contributions this month, according to the report, with all of the money coming from the All Children Matter Virginia State PAC.
The group put the money into two senatorial races, spending $33,847.04 for Behnen, and $17,987 for Scott Rupp, R-Wentzville, and against Wayne Henke, D-Troy, in the 2nd District, and six House races, spending $20,280.70 for John DiStefano, R-Parkville; $0,679.32 for Ed Robb, R-Columbia; $15,324.19 for Charles Portwood, R-Ballwin; $8,958.49 for Dwight Scharnhorst, R-Valley Park; $10,007.93 for Rex Rector, R-Harrisonville; and $8,975.13 for B. J. Marsh, R-Springfield.
All Children Matter was started by Dick DeVos, a founder of Amway and currently a Republican candidate for governor of Michigan.
The impact of the group has already been felt in Missouri politics. It contributed nearly $200,000 for anti-Claire McCaskill ads during the waning days of her 2004 governor's race against the eventual winner, Matt Blunt. Governor Blunt later recently appointed All Children Matter's former treasurer Ed Martin as his chief of staff and has made no secret of his support for sending public money to private schools.
Last week, as noted in The Turner Report and Fired Up Missouri, but not mentioned anywhere else as far as I can tell, the governor appointed an outspoken opponent of public schools, Donayle Whitmore-Smith, head of the pro-voucher Coalition for School Choice, to the State Board of Education.
The support of All Children Matter is not the only connection to pro-voucher interests notable in the eight days before election reports. The report filed today by Rep. Behnen showed the following contributions:
-The maximum $650 from the Jane Cunningham Campaign Committee. Ms. Cunningham is the General Assembly's biggest voucher proponent and became infamous two years ago for lobbying for head of the House Education Committee by reminding Speaker Rod Jetton in a letter of the money she was bringing to state Republicans from All Children Matter.
-$650 from lobbyist and Sarcoxie native Tony Feather, who represents Advocates for School Choice.
-$650 from Feather's wife, Jean.
-$650 from the Kansas City law firm Lathrop & Gage, which was home to Blunt's chief of staff Martin during the time he served with All Children Matter. The firm also represents other voucher proponents.
-$577.50 in an in-kind contribution from lobbyist Travis Brown, who represents K12, another pro-voucher organization.
Behnen's opponent, Rep. Wes Shoemyer, D-Clarence, had not filed his eight days before election report as this was being posted.