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The 65% Solution: A GOP Political Strategy And A Conspiracy To Evade Campaign Finance Law

Fired Up! can now reveal in greater detail that Governor Blunt's proposed "65% Solution" is part of a national GOP political strategy to assist Republicans with their standing on public education and to help them create a climate favorable for anti-public school measures like vouchers and tax credits.  In addition, the proponents of this measure are conspiring to evade campaign finance laws around the country through the use of a 501 (c)(4).

While the contents of the memo from First Class Education have been previously reported in the Austin Statesman and in, Fired Up! can now reveal the actual memo from FCE (pdf version).

In the private memo, FCE talks extensively about the political implications of the 65% proposal.

For example,  at one point the memo states:

For political reasons, it is very helpful that athletics, arts, music field trips and instruction and tuition for special needs students are included in the NCES "in the classroom spending" definition.  This wil deny validity to the opponent's arguments of "Johnny won't be able to play football, Jane won't learn the violin, and Joe's special needs instruction won't be possible."

Apparently, FCE hasn't yet come up with a retort to "Johnny won't have a books to read, or have a bus to get to school, or a hot lunch once he gets there" yet.

Page three of the memo has an extensive discussion of the politics of the "65% Solution entitled, "The Political Benefits of 1st Class Education."

With the 1st Class Education issue on the ballot, Republicans will have a visible answer to "in the classroom improvement of education" without the need to call for a tax increase, offsetting budget cuts in other popular programs or gimmick accounting and deficit spending.  Other important but more tangential political advantages may occur because of the proposal, including:

  1. Splitting of the Education Union.  The 1st Class Education proposal naturally pits administrators and teachers at odds with one another with monies flowing from the former to the latter with its passage.  Because most state education unions represent bother administrators and teachers, the proposal will create tremendous tension within the organization.  Every time the education establishment attacks this proposal, it hurts its standing with the public and the majority of its membership.  Every day and every dollar the education establishment uses to defeat this proposal is a day and a dollar they cannot spend on other political activities.
  2. Direct Fix for Public Education.  While voucher and charter school proposals have great merit, large segments of the voting public--especially suburban, affluent women voters--view these ideas as an abandonment of public education.  Women in particular want public education fixed, not replaced.  Once additional fixing and funding of public education can be achieved via the 1st Class Education proposal, targeted segments of voters may be more greatly predisposed to supporting voucher and charter school proposals, as Republicans address the voting public with great credibility on public education issues.
  3. Establishes the Debate on Taxes and Government Spending.  By highlighting the inefficiencies of education spending, far and away the biggest budgetary item in every state, the 1st Class Education initiative highlights the likely inefficiencies in all areas of state government.   What's the percentage the Department of Motor Vehicles spends on administration verses (sic) direct service to the public?
  4. Allows the Use of Unlimited Non-Personal Money for Political Positioning Advantages.  The aforementioned benefits can be achieved with funding in any amount and from any source.  In the era of campaign finance limitations on candidates, PACs and parties, galvanizing an electorate via the initiative process is a tremendous opportunity.
  5. It Wins.  As with initiatives proposing tax limits, term limits and the definintion of marriage, ballot success for the 1st Class Education proposal is exceedingly likely.  Moreover, the proposal can galvanize public political discussion, becoming a natural limit test for candidates with the electorate.  Its intuitive simplicity establishes either a beneficiary relationship with the voters or a noted disconnect based on the candidates support or opposition to the proposal.

This section of the memo makes several things clear:

  • The "65% Solution" is a phony issue to help give Republicans credibility on education without them having to actually do anything hard.
  • Their goal is to create a wedge between school administrators and teachers, hardly a noble goal if you truly care about education.
  • This furthers the ultimate goals of creating a more favorable environment for anti-public shool measures like vouchers.
  • Allows the GOP to continue their strategy of dividing the country, as they did with term limits and gay marriage.
  • Allows the GOP to end-run campaign finance law.

The memo is even more explicit on this final point.  At the bottom of page two and the top of page three, the memo states:

The plan calls for the use of a national 501(c)(4) organization that will act as a support for the state campaign committees by consolidating certain activities where economies of scale can be achieved--general consulting, professtional signature gathering, research, media et cetera.  This will create national visibility for the issue and help fund state activities through a coordinated fundraising effort with direct contributions to the state committees.  Enactment of the plan needs to begin as soon as possible to ensure the greatest national success.

This section, perfectly describes a conspiracy to evade campaign finance laws between FCE, the unnamed 501(c)(4) and the local sponsors like Governor Matt Blunt.

The scope, organization, and cynicism of this plan is overshadowed only by the sheer audacity of it.

Over the weekend, Fired Up! revealed the connections between the funders of FCE and All Children Matter, an anti-public school, pro-voucher group, that has been a major patron of Governor Matt Blunt.   In 2004, FCE patron, Patrick Byrne, and ACM provided 86% of the funding for an anti-public school, pro-tax credit measure in Utah.



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