Special Interest Shenanigans in 21st Assembly District

Did Special Interest Campaign Benefactors Conspire to Gerrymander District Lines for Benefit of Assembly Candidate Jessie Rodriguez?

MADISON, Wis. — National and local school privatization special interests have been spending big money to elect their favored candidate, Jessie Rodriguez, in the 21st Assembly District. But did they also use their access to top GOP leadership to influence the drawing of the district lines during the development of the state’s new political boundaries adopted in 2011? Based on news reports and publicly available documents, One Wisconsin Now Executive Director Scot Ross that could very well be the case.

Ross commented, “We know from news reports and court documents that Jessie Rodriguez’s boss and the head of groups that have spent big money trying to get her elected were given special access to redistricting maps before they were made public. And they were even allowed to suggest changes.”

As reported by the Milwaukee Journal Sentinel, prior to the public introduction of redistricting legislation, maps of the districts were shared with disgraced former Republican Assembly Speaker Scott Jensen, head of political operations for the private school voucher special interest group American Federation of Children, and Zeus Rodriguez, board president of Jessie Rodriguez’s employer, Hispanics for School Choice.

Documents released as part of court proceedings challenging the legality of the GOP redistricting gerrymander suggest that Zeus Rodriguez offered input into the drawing of districts of specific areas of the state, including the Milwaukee area.

The address listed by Rodriguez as her home was previously in the 82nd Assembly District. But the redistricting maps adopted by the state legislature and signed into law subtly altered the western border of the 21st Assembly District in such a way as to include the neighborhood in which Jessie Rodriguez currently rents a home.

In addition to questions surrounding the influence of school privatization special interests in the drawing of legislative district lines, groups associated with Jensen, including the American Federation for Children, have spent over $70,000 in the 21st District race. A conduit that bundles contributions from big money ideological voucher supporters from across the country has given $2,500 in maximum contributions to Jessie Rodriguez, and her boss at Hispanics for School Choice and his wife have loaned her campaign $1,000.

Ross noted that the big money spending may be necessary to cover up Rodriguez’s vulnerabilities including questions about her ownership of a vacant lot in a subdivision in Racine County while only renting a home in the 21st District and her and her husband, right-wing blogger Aaron Rodriguez, filing for bankruptcy in 2006.

“Voucher special interests have used their campaign cash and access to politicians like Gov. Walker to loot the public treasury and siphon funds away from our top-rated public schools to fund their privatization experiment. It seems that they also received special access to GOP’s efforts to rig election districts and may have taken the opportunity to help out their favored candidate in this race,” concluded Ross.

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