Wisconsin Democracy Campaign
Campaign Cash

$8.5 Million Reasons Why GOP Expanding Vouchers

Multi millions in campaign donations, mostly from out-of-state voucher supporters.

By - Jul 26th, 2017 11:01 am
Betsy DeVos. Photo from the Dick & Betsy DeVos Family Foundation.

Betsy DeVos. Photo from the Dick & Betsy DeVos
Family Foundation.

Assembly and Senate Republican lawmakers wrangling over the proposed 2017-19 state budget agree on at least one major policy item: More state spending and higher income eligibility limits for the state’s school voucher programs, whose supporters spend millions of dollars to elect GOP candidates.

Currently, families with an annual income at less than 185 percent of the federal poverty level, which is about $45,260 for a family of four, qualify for private school vouchers from the state.

Assembly Republicans, who hold a 64-35 majority, have proposed giving private-school vouchers to families at 300 percent of the poverty level, which amounts to an annual income of about $73,400 for a family of four. Senate Republicans, who hold a 20-13 majority, want to raise the income limit to 220 percent, which amounts to an annual income of about $53,400 for a family of four.

The state’s school voucher program, which was originally intended to help poor families, provides state tax dollars to allow pupils to attend private and religious schools. School vouchers are generally supported by Republicans as an alternative to state-funded public schools. Most Democrats claim voucher programs are ineffective, unaccountable, and reduce resources for public education.

Between January 2010 and December 2016, mostly out-of-state school voucher interests doled out about $8.5 million for direct campaign contributions and outside election spending in legislative and statewide races – nearly all of it to support Republican candidates.

Special interest outside election spending by the pro-voucher American Federation for Children, which was founded by President Trump’s education secretary, Betsy DeVos, totaled about $6.4 million between January 2010 and December 2016. A leader of the American Federation for Children in Wisconsin is none other than the disgraced former Speaker of the Assembly, Republican Scott Jensen.

Campaign contributions by mostly out-of-state millionaires and billionaires who support vouchers totaled about $2.1 million.

Topping the list of pro-voucher contributors to legislative and statewide candidates in Wisconsin since January 2010 were Robert and Patricia Kern, of Waukesha, founders of Generac Corp., about $283,000; Foster and Lynnette Friess, of Jackson, Wyo., owners of Friess Associates, $162,200; and Dennis Kuester, of Milwaukee, retired chairman of M&I Bank, and his wife, Sandy, $126,400.

Top recipients of pro-voucher cash since January 2010 were Republican Gov. Scott Walker, about $1.3 million; GOP Lt. Gov. Rebecca Kleefisch, about $104,890; and the Committee to Elect a Republican Senate, $63,650.

The two houses have been unable to resolve their differences over transportation, tax and education policy and spending in the proposed budget, which was supposed to take effective July 1.

16 thoughts on “Campaign Cash: $8.5 Million Reasons Why GOP Expanding Vouchers”

  1. Bill Marsh says:

    This isn’t news, this is propaganda. Unlike the special interest teacher unions which provide several multiples more campaign money to anti-voucher democrats, none of the executives summarized above receive any financial benefits for their campaign contributions to pro-voucher politicians. We all know that the democrats are anti-voucher because they are owned by the teacher unions, and that the democrats will sell out poor students and the taxpayers for whatever the teacher unions want including protecting bad teachers and failed public schools. So who is actually providing and accepting dirty money in this debate? Where is Wisconsin Democracy Campaign’s investigation of all that dirty anti-voucher money for which there is a real quid pro quo payoff?

  2. Vincent Hanna says:

    “This isn’t news, this is propaganda.”

    Like your post in other words? Same old nonsense about Democrats and teachers not caring about poor students. Since voucher schools perform so poorly one could say pro-voucher people and groups don’t care about poor students. Rather, they want to make sure religious propaganda can be forced upon more and more young people.

  3. Bill Marsh says:

    Where does it state “Editorial or Opinion” on this propaganda piece? Or do you consider this “news”? I guess Urban Milwaukee has become just another one-sided lefty blog site. Maybe I was mistaken by considering Urban Milwaukee as a “News” site operated by “journalists”. But every once in a while the hypocrisy of the site merits wasting my time to point out the BS. I never claimed or implied my comment in the reader comment area is news- got it? I merely made a comment with an opinion backed by facts- teacher unions benefit financially from campaign contributions to democrats, at the cost to students and taxpayers. Considering Wisconsin Democracy Campaign is so righteous about dirty campaign money, they obviously are big-time hypocrites for supporting the dirty money anti-voucher teacher unions and democrats. But tell me how their campaign contributions don’t stink….

  4. Vincent Hanna says:

    We are all so fortunate to have you take time out of your busy day and point out perceived hypocrisy on Urban Milwaukee. Where would we be without your services?

  5. Bruce Murphy says:

    Bill Marsh: the Wisconsin Democracy Campaign has throughout its history released reports on all campaign finance issues, regardless of party, most recently as on the spending for superintendent, where liberal Tony Evers spent the most and also benefitted from outside donations by the Greater Wisconsin Committee (which has traditionally gotten contributions from teachers union):: http://urbanmilwaukee.com/2017/07/21/campaign-cash-superintendents-race-cost-1-million/ But the reality is that Republicans have had control of state government since 2011 and the vast majority of laws passed since then — and donations relevant to that — have involved Republicans.

  6. Vincent Hanna says:

    “But the reality is that Republicans have had control of state government since 2011 and the vast majority of laws passed since then — and donations relevant to that — have involved Republicans.”

    To echo Bruce, clearly campaign finance is of prime importance to the Wisconsin Democracy Campaign. They have been writing about that issue since 1995.

  7. Tom says:

    Bruce Murphy: But the Wisconsin Democracy Campaign didn’t imply that Tony Evers was voting differently because of those campaign contributions like this piece does.

    Nor did WDC specify the interests of those interest groups beyond backing democrats. WDC did do this with the conservative group. This obviously leaves the impression that the democratic candidates are more independent of their donors.

    I think its possible its not done on purpose but the bias is there nonetheless.

  8. Vincent Hanna says:

    Cause one is about an election (so voting on particular issues didn’t come up) and the other a specific issue?

  9. Bill Marsh says:

    First off Bruce, why is this not identified as an editorial? Or are you now farming out supposed “news” reporting to organizations with a political agenda? Is Urban Milwaukee going to allow the NRA to provide “news” regarding gun issues on this site?

    Also, I looked at the Evers piece- notice WDC did not mention the groups that provided campaign money to Evers? And WDC certainly didn’t mention the agendas of those providing campaign contributions to Evers. As for balance, notice this propaganda piece doesn’t mention the amount of contributions or the names of the contributors on the opposing side and their respective agendas? False equivalency anyone?

    As to Republicans controlling state government and the laws that have been passed- true. But what does that have to do with balanced “news reporting”. Just because Republicans are in control doesn’t mean the teacher union-democratic party campaign contribution quid pro quo does not stink. But we know already, the teacher union-democratic party campaign money corruption machine is not a topic to be discussed by the liberal media or by their friends at WDC.

  10. Vincent Hanna says:

    Bill Marsh is on to you liberal media. Don’t try any funny business.

  11. Bruce Murphy says:

    Bill Marsh, the column is labeled Campaign Cash and lets people know who is spending money to back particular laws and policies. I don’t see how it could be more transparent. Regardless of party or ideology, if the donors are helping to get particular laws passed we think that’s of interest to readers, and will happily run those stories.

  12. Jake says:

    Bill is another rightwing tool.

  13. Bill Marsh says:

    Bruce, does “Campaign Cash” mean news or editorial? What is transparent about that? Do you consider the writers at WDC to be journalists or do you consider them as activists with an agenda not tethered to journalism’s supposed code to be unbiased? Or Bruce, am I just wrong to consider Urban Milwaukee a news site bound by journalistic standards?

  14. Bruce Murphy says:

    Bill, this is a report on campaign donations related to a particular law. You seem to feel it is propaganda, which is your right. My concern is whether it’s factual and accurate and I have no reason to think it’s not. Of course if we learned that something in the story wasn’t accurate, we would correct it as we always do.

  15. Bruce Murphy says:

    And a note to readers, Bill Marsh would be appear to be a fake name from someone with a fake email address.

  16. Bill Marsh says:

    Bruce, like a lot of things from the news media, more is telling by what is not stated than what is stated. Obviously you are having difficulty answering the question as to WDC’s status as journalists or activists. Let me help you- they are clearly activists, just like the NRA, NARAL, and ALEC.

    Although I have not checked, I cannot disagree that WDC’s propaganda piece is factual and accurate as to what is stated. As I have been saying in my comments, the problem with WDC’s piece is what is omitted and its lack of balance. That makes its an editorial piece and would be identified as such on a reputable “news” site. Or is being unbiased no longer a standard of journalism?

    PS- Definition of propaganda from Wikipedia- “Propaganda is information that is not objective and is used primarily to influence an audience and further an agenda, often by presenting facts selectively to encourage a particular synthesis or perception, or using loaded language to produce an emotional rather than a rational response to the information that is presented.” Bingo!

    PPS- You got me on an old email address. Have you checked up on any of your other readers, or only the ones you disagree with? For your information I think the original execution of Urban Milwaukee as a news site focused on the city was great. However, its regression to becoming another Shepherd Express is a shame. If WDC’s pieces were listed as op-eds, I would have no problem with them. I can handle other people’s opinions. The fact that their pieces are clearly biased and not identified as op-eds is what draws my ire. You guys can do better than this.

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