Monday, April 25, 2011

Pro-Voucher Astroturfing: Campaigns Across Nation Coordinated by DeVos, Funded by a Few Mega-Donors

Part Two - Indiana

In addition to the millions spent in Pennsylvania, over 4.6 million dollars was raised by the Indiana affiliate of the Betsy DeVos-led pro-voucher organizations, all from 13 mega-donors, prior to the 2010 election. The Indiana PAC money also funded campaigns in Florida, Georgia, Wisconsin and other states.

The Indiana state senate passed a sweeping school voucher bill on Thursday, April 21, 2010, following an intensive crusade by the Betsy DeVos-led American Federation For Children and affiliated organizations. The blitz campaigns in Indiana and other states are similar to the one in Pennsylvania (described in detail in the previous report). A small core group of donors ideologically opposed to public education contribute millions of dollars to the pro-voucher movements in states across the nation. The massive funding and distribution of the funds around the nation is a classic case of astroturfing, creating the illusion that there is a spontaneous wave of grass roots and bipartisan support for vouchers.

Borrowing the definition from Sourcewatch, astroturf lobbying "refers to apparently grassroots-based citizen groups or coalitions that are primarily conceived, created and/or funded by corporations, industry trade associations, political interests or public relations firms."

The pro-voucher astroturf model is being repeated throughout the country:

-- DeVos-led organizations fund a local entity and political action committee (PAC) in the state.

--Funding comes from a few mega-donors who make contributions in one location. These funds are then moved to non-profits and PACs in other states, obscuring the identity of the small group of original donors. (This report focuses on the affiliated PAC in Indiana which had over $4.6 million in receipts from 13 donors prior to the 2010 election, and sent most of the funds to six other states.) The pro-voucher 501(C)(3) nonprofits across the nation, which do not directly fund candidates, are also largely funded by the DeVos-led entities.

--Contributions are made primarily to candidates in state and local campaigns, and for advertising, direct mail, and canvassing, helping to promote the illusion of a surge of grass roots support. Funding is spent to commission a poll prior to the legislative vote which shows majority support in the state for school vouchers.

--Funding and advertising support is provided to small group of Democrats who become the face of the movement, promoting the illusion that there is significant bipartisan support.

--Teachers who have spent years in the classroom, teachers' unions, and opponents of vouchers, are demonized as not caring about urban children and accused of obstructing the altruistic efforts of pro-voucher supporters. The radical privatization agenda of DeVos and wealthy backers is not revealed.

Read the rest of the article here:

Rachel Tabachnick is an independent researcher. She is a member of Keystone Progress.

1 comment:

GR8 STED said...

And guess who is MS. DeVos' brother. One Eric Prince of Blackwater Iraqi infamy.
She is such a wealthy elitist she gives new meaning to the term.