"A child's learning is the function more of the characteristics of his classmates than those of the teacher." James Coleman, 1972

Tuesday, August 14, 2007

David Brennan Caught Washing Money Through National Charter Front Group

What happens when someone like charter school kingin, David Brennan, wants to buy more influence in Ohio elections than state law will allow? You do what Tom Delay did--you simply launder the money through an out-of-state outfit like All Children Matter that turns your cash into campaign contributions for your preferred stable of candidates. No fuss, no muss--well, maybe a little muss this time.

From the Columbus Dispatch:
Ohio's biggest charter-school operator has given $200,000 to a Virginia political action committee. That group's transfer of $870,000 to an Ohio affiliate last year to help elect Republicans is the subject of a state election-law complaint.

Ohio Secretary of State Jennifer Brunner argues the influx of cash is an illegal dodge of state campaign laws. An opposing lawyer disagrees, and the Ohio Elections Commission will hold a hearing Aug. 23 on the dispute.

Industrialist David L. Brennan is president of Akron-based White Hat Management, a for-profit operator of charter schools in Ohio and six other states.

He gave $50,000 in 2004, '05, '06 and $50,000 so far this year to the Virginia political action committee of All Children Matter, a national group supporting charter schools, records show.

An Ohio PAC for All Children Matter was formed last year and received $870,000 in contributions -- but all of it came from the group's Virginia PAC, according to elections documents.

Columbus lawyer William M. Todd, representing the All Children Matter Ohio PAC, argues that state law allows unlimited transfers between any affiliated PACs of the same organization.

But Brunner's office says that's wrong, and critics say the practice can allow wealthy donors such as Brennan to bypass contribution limits and buy public policy in Ohio.

"Campaign-contribution limits are about making sure politicians aren't bought and paid for," said Catherine Turcer of Ohio Citizen Action, a government-watchdog group.

Brennan couldn't be reached late Friday.

The school-choice group's Ohio PAC has spent $856,559, including $10,000 contributions to House Speaker Jon A. Husted, R-Kettering, and 2006 GOP gubernatorial candidate J. Kenneth Blackwell, both staunch charter-school supporters. An additional $71,500 went directly to other candidates, records show.

The PAC also spent nearly $360,000 for campaign mailings on behalf of GOP candidates and nearly $287,500 in radio and cable TV advertising.

Todd, who also is the GOP candidate for Columbus mayor, points to state law that says transfers between PACs are allowed if both are controlled by the same corporation, labor group or other organization. He notes that Democratic labor groups have done the same thing without being challenged.

But an advisory opinion issued by the Elections Commission in May 2006 at the request of All Children Matter concluded that an out-of-state PAC that isn't registered in Ohio can give only the $10,670 limit to PACs in the state.

Unlimited transfers from a federal PAC to an affiliated Ohio PAC are allowed. But although federal contributions must be disclosed to the Federal Election Commission, contribution and disclosure rules in other states vary widely, said Philip C. Richter, executive director of the Ohio Elections Commission.

For example, although Ohio bans corporate contributions to candidates and limits individual gifts to both candidates and PACs to $10,670, there are no such restrictions in Virginia -- where donations to the All Children Matter PAC included $2.09 million from the estate of Wal-Mart heir John Walton.

The Virginia PAC for All Children Matter, which raised nearly $7.4 million last year, also gave money to the school-choice group's PACs in six states besides Ohio, records show.

A complaint also was filed in Wisconsin, contending the group laundered money and failed to register, but the state elections board there refused to authorize an investigation.

All Children Matter, founded by Dick DeVos, the Amway Corp. president whose wife is the former chairwoman of the Michigan Republican Party, has been active in Ohio before.

The group spent nearly $1.5 million here in 2004 and $261,000 in 2005, records show. . . .

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