MADISON, Wis. — Fueled by contributions from out-of-state billionaires and the state big business lobby, the pro-private school voucher lobbying group the American Federation for Children (AFC) has reported pouring over $1 million worth of independent expenditures into state legislative races. The group, whose Wisconsin operations are overseen by disgraced former Republican Assembly Speaker Scott Jensen has also larded the campaigns of candidates and the Republican Assembly and Senate legislative campaign committees with $34,000 in direct contributions between September 1 and October 24.
“The private school voucher cartel’s front group, the American Federation for Children, is back and looking to do business in Wisconsin,” commented One Wisconsin Now Executive Director Scot Ross. “Fueled by huge contributions from out-of-state billionaires and the big business lobby, AFC is looking to elect legislators who’ll keep our tax dollars flowing to their friends in the less accountable private school industry instead of our public schools.”
According to filings with the State Elections Commission the American Federation for Children will have spent in excess of $1 million on direct mail and television, radio and digital advertising both attacking Democratic candidates and praising Republicans. Since 2010, the American Federation for Children has spent at least $4.5 million in Wisconsin campaigns.
The campaign advertising of AFC has been especially duplicitous in this election cycle in their bid to preserve a Republican state legislative majority. While the group has never featured the issue for which it advocates in its advertising, this cycle their ads have gone so far as to praise legislators for voting against the state budget bill which expanded the private school voucher program.
Races in which AFC has been active include spending over $259,000 attacking Democrat Jeff Wright and promoting Republican Todd Novak in Assembly District 51; over $241,000 attacking Democrat Mandy Wright and promoting Republican Pat Snyder in Assembly District 85; over $54,000 attacking Democrat Dennis Hunt and promoting Republican Rob Summerfield in Assembly District 67; over $45,000 attacking Democrat David Gorski and promoting Republican Scott Krug in Assembly District 72; over $349,000 attacking Democrat Bryan Van Stippen in his race against Republican Tom Tiffany in Senate District 12; and over $62,000 attacking Democrat Mark Harris in his race against Republican Dan Feyen in Senate District 18.
In addition, candidate and the Republican legislative campaign committee filings indicate the AFC has been active in doling out campaign contributions directly to sitting Republican legislators, candidates and the legislative campaign committees controlled by the Senate and Assembly Republican leaders.
The largesse of AFC in supporting the campaigns of Assembly Republicans has been amply repaid in recent years. The nonpartisan Legislative Fiscal Bureau has reported the private school voucher program, with lower accountability standards than public schools, will snag $800 million in state tax dollars over the decade. In addition to sending massive sums of public tax dollars to private schools, the Republican-controlled legislature also enacted a special tax break that allows millionaires and others sending their kids to private schools and academies to get a deduction for tuition at an estimated annual cost of $30 million.
Ross noted that the private school voucher cartel appears poised to demand more taxpayer subsidies in the 2017 legislative session. According to news reports, the next objective in their crosshairs is creating taxpayer funded accounts that could be used to pay for tuition at private schools and other related expenses.
Ross concluded, “They won’t say it publicly in their misleading campaign ads, but make no mistake, the AFC intends to keep the gravy train flowing for their friends and keep taking money from our public schools to support less accountable private schools. And they’re spending big money to make sure they have legislators in their pocket who will do their dirty work for them.”