Latinos for Education Reform’s lack of transparency, Buck Donors, 527s, Repub Strategists, and more

Last weekend I wrote a diary about Latinos for Education Reform’s ties to the pro-voucher community.  It sparked no less than four new pols names being created to defend the organization, and as of today has 72 comments.  Given the interest, and the many questions that were raised in the discussion, I thought I would look into the organization more.

The first thing that struck me as odd was that there was actually no record of the group existing under political organizations.  Looking under businesses, it shows up as having been formed two days ago(October 10th, 2011), two days after my diary went up and presumably weeks (or more) after they had started collecting contributions and placing ads in local newspapers.  While campaigns for the Denver School Board all sent in their lists of donors last night, this “organization,” whose only public action so far was to run ads advocating for and against candidates, has not made public where any of their funding is coming from.  Given that Secretary of State Gessler has been so “forgiving” of right-wing groups in the past I would be surprised if this ever becomes an issue.

More after the jump.

This diary may start to sound like an incestuous version of the Kevin Bacon game, but poking around for filings a few names kept coming up that seemed connected to each other in odd ways.  Some of this is more questions than I have answers, but I wanted to share (and please chime in if you have any thoughts, even if you just think that I’m seeing things that aren’t there).

Jesus Salazar: Mr. Salazar is the Registered Agent for LFER (the ad refers to him as Treasurer).  Mr. Salazar is on the board of A+, which I think is hosting candidate forums for the DPS races.  A+ is Van Schoales, who also works at Ed Reform Now with Myles Mendoza.

Stand for Children: Stand is a group from Portland, Oregon who recently poured money into several Illinois elections.  Afterward, their CEO gave a rather boneheaded speech at the Aspen institute for which he later apologized.  Their Colorado Chapter has recently become active, as seen by the huge contributions to several DPS candidates.  Stand also brings us to our next individual, and possibly the most interesting of this group: Katie Kennedy

Katie Kennedy: Katie is apparently involved with a number of organizations related to this race.  Searching her name on the Colorado Secretary of State webpage bring up Stand for Children (where she is the registered agent), as well as something called “Better Schools for a Stronger Colorado” (where she is also the registered agent).  BSSC appears to be operating out of the stand office, which raises a question about why two groups apparently doing the same thing are in the same place.  That by itself isn’t too odd though, until you take a look at candidates they are supporting.  Jennifer Draper Carson, Board Member Jimenez’s opponent (the main candidate LFER is attacking), is paying Strategic Compliance LLC for “consulting” work..  That business name is (you might have guessed) Katie Kenndy’s..  Other links to Katie Kennedy show that she’s the registered agent for groups like the (Republican) Senate Majority Fund

Speaking of Republicans, it’s interesting that major contributions to all three of the top fundraisers (which have been referred to as a slate: Happy Haynes, Anne Rowe, and Jennifer Draper-Carson) come from two wealthy Republicans: Bruce Benson, who gave each campaign $10,000, and (more interesting) Henry Gordon, an oil and gas conservative whose previous contributions were limited to $1500 to Ken Buck against former Superintendent Bennet. Gordon gave a whopping $25,000 to each of the 3 campaigns.  Between the two of them, that’s over $100,000 into the race.  Dan Ritchie topped all of them, donating $26,000 to each (The Ed News Piece points these out well).

So what to make of all of this?  To recap, LFER is a new organization that apparently doesn’t feel the need to actually file paperwork to engage in political activity (and of course their C4 status is questionable given what they have been doing).  That’s all very solid.  As for the rest of this, the same names just keep coming up too much, even in a city as small as Denver.  Why is a campaign paying the registered agent of two independent expenditure groups?  Why is that campaign using a Republican with extensive 527 ties at all?  Why is Stand for Children and BSSC, who apparently share an office, using a Republican Strategist for a nonpartisan race between two registered Democrats?  Why is a man whose previous largest contribution was against (now) Senator Bennet suddenly contributing huge amounts to three candidates who are seen in the media as supporting the Bennet/Boasberg reforms?

I’m curious if and when LFER actually has to file any information on their donors, given that they are appearing as a business and not a political committee.  I would imagine a lot of the same names would keep coming up again.

19 Community Comments, Facebook Comments

  1. Shilly McBullshit says:

    don’t ya know?  

    • John Tzekara says:

      I have no interest in your shilling and if you think you are somehow helping her or making a point about the people who dislike Merida you are mistaken.

      I am here to have an actual conversation — not for incite another round of “Andrea sucks — no she’s great.”  She has nothing to do with this diary.  Personally I find both her and Theresa Pena to be obnoxious — both are wading into political battles to deep for them.

    • c rork says:

      a diary up in just a minute. :)

  2. DenEdDem says:

    I think about half were rants (and responses) against us dangerous New Pols, so not sure you should be quite so proud.

    BSSC is clearly Stand’s 527. Which would explain why they both use K. Kennedy (whomever she is).  Two affiliated political groups using the same registered agent. Shocker.  A LFER member is on the Board of an organization hosting a forum?  Last count I think there were over 25 different forums (including one earlier tonight).  And that connection was hardly unique  – Ricardo Martinez (of Padres Unidos) co-sponsored one; I believe Rosemary Rodriquez served as the moderator. I’m sure there are others. That’s not a sign of a conspiracy, that is why these people matter.  They are deeply engaged and part of the Latino community.  And they think Jimenez is on the wrong side of a lot of issues (which they list: http://www.latinosforeducationreform.com). These are pretty specific — infinitely more so than any potential connection to vouchers.

    LFER is hiding in plain sight. Their signee list is mainly people with considerable civic and political reputations at stake (Rosemary Rodriquez, Elaine Berman, Mike Ferrufino, Rick Garcia, Ricardo Martinez, etc).  This isn’t some Swift Boat apparition – these are people who have made considerable contributions to this city.  The original ad had 38 names (copy on EdNews in small type so hope I’m close) — the list on their web site now has 52.  It’s growing, not shrinking. And it’s clearly not a shadowy conspiracy.

    So sure, I’ll chime in at the risk of getting your comment count up again: I think you are seeing things that aren’t there (including that newbies are automatically shrills).  

    • John Tzekara says:

      Why did LFER not register as an entity until after they started attacking Mr. Jimenez?  You say:

      Their signee list is mainly people with considerable civic and political reputations at stake

      Do none of those people understand filing procedures?  Why are they registered in such a way that they have not disclosed any of their donors?

      • DenEdDem says:

        My best guess is LFER happened when a bunch of people in a room were complaining about Jimenez’s policies and they decided to draft a statement and sign it.  There isn’t much of an organization — and I don’t know that they are “members” – just signees.  An add in La Voz or other small local papers is what – $500?  They don’t seem to have staff or an office, my guess is that their expenses to date could be covered by passing the hat (or by Tim Marquez’s loose car change). I doubt very seriously that, to date, they have any donors to disclose.

        I’d also guess that they did not think they would garner the attention and response they have (HT to you – if you want the credit).  So now they either fade away, or pick it up.  Adding signees suggests the latter – my completely uninformed guess is they’ll now make another push (more ads, bigger venues).  I think the attacks on them and absurd claims (Racists! Vouchers! Republicans! Corporate Interests!) makes this more likely, not less.  Which is part of the wonderful irony of politics – by falsely calling them out as bigger than they are, you make it more likely that they will do more.  Fun to watch.  

        • John Tzekara says:

          That’s quite a big hat being passed around.

          http://www.northdenvertribune….

          You can’t have this both ways.  First you say that these are powerful, seasoned political people with reputations at stake, and now you you want to say “aw shucks they’re just regular people who don’t know anything about fancy laws”

          Your thin veil of concern is getting weaker.

          • DenEdDem says:

            what I said was that these are powerful political people who do lots of other stuff and it’s unlikely they need outside money.  What law is it exactly that you think they have broken?  Or are you just conjuring up more fantasy?

            And both below with @catpuzzle – you ask for thoughts and then accuse anyone who disagrees with you of being an ideological stooge. Your shrill is showing.

  3. catpuzzle says:

    There are so many things wrong with this diary I don’t even know where to begin. Not that I think it’s ill-intentioned, I just think it ends up letting itself go overboard.

    First…

    John – you are on to something. There are a lot of connections between people involved in political stuff. In Denver, as in any other state / city / county / etc., it’s not a very big group of people. And they interlock – professionally, socially, etc. So you can play Kevin Bacon games with just about anyone involved in this stuff, to whatever ends you want.

    But when you start seeing the circles and drawing lines and pinning shit on the wall and whatever, well…

    http://www.hulu.com/watch/2865

    So what have you uncovered? Well…

    Katie Kennedy works as a registered agent for people. That’s her job, as best I can tell. She files papers for people. Does compliance, etc. She does this for lots and lots of groups from a quick search.

    Jesus Salazar is on the board of A+. You say A+ “is” Van Schoales? I mean, sure, they just hired him as a staffer recently (per the link you cite), but I’m pretty sure the actual board (like say, Jesus) might have some questions about your characterization there.

    Stand for Children has “recently” become active? I know you’re pretty new to DPS politics but Stand has been very involved for a few years now. Nothing “recent” about their involvement. Their Colorado chapter has been very active for awhile, both in Denver and across the state. Not surprised they would support pro-reform candidates. They were heavily involved in the 2009 board elections, for instance.

    http://www.coloradostatesman.c

    Speaking of Republicans like Bruce Benson, I really doubt Jimenez has any real concerns about them. After all, he was only too happy to take their checks last time around… (an old Ed News Piece points this out well).

    Jimenez, in a close race to represent northwest Denver, initially filed reports filled with $25 to $100 donations from parents and neighbors. His final report includes $15,000 donations from Bruce Benson and the Gary-Williams Energy Co., $10,000 from Larry Mizel and $7,500 from John Saeman.

    http://www.ednewscolorado.org/

    Of course, since we’re talking about huge sums of money, it’s probably worth noting that DCTA / NEA have dropped like $30k plus in each race.

    Like I said before, most of these folks aren’t new to DPS politics. They’ve been working with many others (Bennet included) to build a coalition for reform. Which happens to include Democrats AND Republicans. I know you are newer to it, but there’s no conspiracy here, man. Stand didn’t just pop up. There’s nothing unusual about 1 compliance person working for tons of campaigns / groups (not many people in CO do that kind of work, it’s pretty niche). etc.etc. Your stuff on this is really wandering off into the crazy side of conspiracy.

    • John Tzekara says:

      but I wasn’t born yesterday.

      This Katie Kennedy woman has worked extensively for conservative organizations — not a mix of both sides as you are trying to imply, and now for these folks.  That’s a point you gloss over.

      Also, I do not recall seeing any contributions from NEA.  Are they tied to an outside group somehow?  I’d be happy to include that.

      • catpuzzle says:

        It’s the local affiliate. They get lots of money from national, and the CEA cut a big check too.

        Anyway, I don’t really have that experience, I just have been around and following this stuff long enough know that when you say something like “stand is suddenly involved” or whatever, you probably need a little background info on this. I think you’re getting pretty over-excited about this.

        Yes. These ed reform people talk to each other.

        Yes. They include Republicans. And Democrats.

        I have no idea who the fuck Katie Kennedy is, but I also don’t really care. My understanding is that compliance people on campaigns basically just take care of paper work.

        I think your problem is that you’ve overstated your case here by trying to make it into some massive conspiracy. It just isn’t. If you post had been “hey guys look there are republicans involved in DPS elections!” it would have avoided baseless conspiracy theories like the ones around A+ (a long-standing denver civic group) or stand (the same). But it also wouldn’t have been as exciting and crazy a story as the one you painted.

        Unfortunately, the whole conspiracy theory thing, well, it ain’t really true. You’re smearing a lot of people here, and need to be more responsible with your language, I think.  

        • John Tzekara says:

          That’s abundantly clear.  

          I would not assume what Eli Stokols runs in the news is related to the CEO of Time Warner, and that’s the argument that you are trying to make with NEA/DCTA.  Please show me where national NEA money is being transferred to any candidate for school board here, and I will happily update the piece to include it.  Links or proof would be nice.

          Also, do you have anything to comment on regarding the main topic of this piece: LFER and a lack of transparency?

          • DenEdDem says:

            Guess what — both sides use them.  Just like both sides have people who seem to support vouchers. Etc etc etc.  

            http://www.ednewscolorado.org/

          • catpuzzle says:

            That’s how unions work with political money. I’m not anti-union at all, and I don’t mean it as a pejorative by any means. I was just pointing out that there are others spending a lot of money on these races besides the folks you singled out, and that it’s not a big deal. Anyway, unions get dues from their members and then spend them in the elections that are targeted, like these are. I think DCTA has dropped over $60k so far this year, which isn’t money they just have. Unions get a dues assessment from members at a national level, and then use that money for local political spending as necessary.

            Anyway, I’m not sure what Eli Stokols has to do with this? Again, mentioning NEA wasn’t really to make any argument, just to mention there are a lot of groups spending lots of money.

            Regarding the lack of transparency, I think it’s actually pretty cool that someone running negative campaign materials put a whole list of people who are supporting their group on their lit. The complaint is that no one is accountable, and in this case, there’s clearly a list of people responsible, which strikes me as a really good thing.

            Much more transparent than say, DeFENSE Denver, which apparently is running a canvas program for Sirota and Jimenez.  

  4. dwyer says:

    I think the more known about the players in the DPS political arena, the better.

    Even though, it would appear that my favorite explanation for the political split on the Denver Board of Education is shot to hell, by these facts.  I assumed that the only goal of the so-called “reform crowd” was to preserve the Boasberg, Bennet, Barack, connection.  I presumed that Boasberg was critical to “displaying” Obaman’s  educational success. I presumed that this was going to be a factor in the campaign to keep Colorado in the Democratic column come 2012.  But, the preponderance of republican Big Money in the school board race supporting the Boasberg crowd would tend to go against my favorite theory.

    Unless the Latino dems are simply not knowledgeable and may not be aware that they could be acting as a Trojan Horse or Big Money Denver/Colorado absolutely has to control what happens on the Denver Board of Education or none of the above.

    What is certain is that none of this, IMHO, has anything to do with educating children.  A+  ran the NE “community”

    process that closed schools, etc, in Montbello.  It will be years before the their program choices can be properly evaluated.  I think that some people in NW Denver undergoing the same “community”process are coordinating with STAND.

    Final prediction:  Yesenia Robles will be the next Denver Post reporter to jump to the Foundations’ payroll.  In the article today, Robles carefully divided the candidates into the  ”reformers” and the “union backed.”

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