The political tiger that used to call itself Hoosiers for Economic Growth has a new name, but it hasn’t changed its stripes. It’s up to the same thing: Funneling money from out-of-state billionaires to state legislative candidates likely to support private-school vouchers.
Now called Hoosiers for Quality Education, the political action committee has spent over a half million dollars this year to influence Indiana elections – including at least $187,500 in large contributions made in the last 10 days to Republican state legislative candidates.
As in the past, the group’s money comes primarily from non-Hoosiers. Some $325,000 – more than half of what it raised this year – was contributed by the American Federation for Children PAC, a pro-voucher group headed by Michigan GOP activist Betsy DeVos.
It got $100,000 from a Hoosier, Fred Klipsch, who organized the group and claimed credit for getting Indiana to adopt school vouchers, expanded charter schools and test-based teacher evaluations in 2011. It also got money from John Bryan, an Oregon industrialist with ties to the Koch Brothers, and Charter Schools USA, the Florida for-profit tapped to run three low-performing Indianapolis schools.
American Federation for Children files its Indiana campaign reports from the Terre Haute office of GOP super lawyer James Bopp, a primary figure behind the Citizens United case in which the Supreme Court overturned restrictions on corporate political giving.
And where does the American Federation for Children PAC get its money? Mostly from heirs to the Walmart fortune, who are well known for bankrolling efforts to promote charter schools and vouchers. It reports 2014 contributions of $745,000 from Jim Walton and $166,450 from Alice Walton.
Of course, that kind of money is pocket change if you’re worth more than $34 billion. Not to say our Indiana politicians are for sale – but if they were, these folks could buy them.
Sparks vs. Ubelhor race an education battleground
Indiana legislative districts are drawn in such a way that only a handful of seats are at stake on Election Day. One of those is House District 62, where Linton middle-school principal Jeff Sparks, a Democrat, is challenging Matt Ubelhor, the Republican incumbent.
You can tell it’s a hot race by the amount of late money coming in on both sides. And it’s significant that a lot of the money is coming from groups focused on education.
Just in the past 10 days, Ubelhor has taken in $109,300 in large contributions and Sparks has received $68,000, with party caucuses the biggest donors to each. Since mid-September, Hoosiers for Quality Education has reporting giving $33,000 to Ubelhor and the Indiana State Teachers Association has contributed twice that much to Sparks.