Look who’s deploying some of his considerable financial clout to influence who we Hoosiers elect as superintendent of public instruction this fall. It’s billionaire New York Mayor Michael Bloomberg, who donated $40,000 last month to the re-election campaign of Republican Superintendent Tony Bennett.
Bloomberg, as mayor, has championed some of the same policies that Bennett has pushed in Indiana: more charter schools, test-based evaluations of teachers, etc. But it’s not like Bennett needs the money. He’s sitting on more than a half million dollars, and there’s no way his Democratic opponent, Glenda Ritz, will ever come close to that.
Ritz, an elementary school teacher in Washington Township schools on the north side of Indianapolis, did get $30,000 last month from the political action committee of the Indiana State Teachers Association. Well, it’s a start.
Bennett, meanwhile, got June campaign contributions of $25,000 from Merrillville hotel developer Dean White, $50,000 from charter school founder Christel DeHaan and $25,000 from Gov. Mitch Daniels’ Aiming Higher PAC.
On June 29, the same day he recorded the Bloomberg donation, Bennett also got $25,000 from Hoosiers for Economic Growth. As School Matters reported previously, the money behind HEG doesn’t come from Hoosiers and it has nothing to do with economic growth. HEG gets most of its funding, including all $275,000 it reported receiving this year, from the American Federation for Children, a school-voucher advocacy organization headed by Michigan conservative activist Betsy DeVos.
Much of AFC’s money – including $1.2 million in early 2012 – has come from three investment managers affiliated with Philadelphia firm Susquehanna International Group, Joel Greenberg, Arthur Dantchik and Jeff Yass, according to the organization’s Indiana campaign finance reports. In previous years, AFC got more than $1.5 million from Alice Walton, whose family owns Wal-Mart, and $1 million from New York hedge-fund manager Julian Robertson.
Strange, isn’t it? These people hand out six-figure checks like candy at a Fourth of July parade.
AFC in turn has bankrolled pro-voucher organizations in Wisconsin, Pennsylvania, Georgia and Indiana. In 2010, Hoosiers for Economic Growth funneled its share into the campaigns of Republican legislative candidates. Republicans took full control of the Statehouse and delivered for their supporters by approving in 2011 what was then the most extensive school voucher program in the country.
In politics, it sometimes seems that you get what you pay for – or someone does.