Remember the guy on horseback, wearing a black hat of course, who came riding into town. Past the hardware store, past the doctor’s office, past the saloon, past another saloon before hitching his horse in front of the jail. Except, that really wasn’t a hardware store, doctor’s office or saloon. They were just “false fronts” on a movie set meant to make us think there was more there than met the eye.
This is what I kept thinking about as I tried to find out about the Alabama Federation for Children.
Their name implies that they are a collection of people or groups interested in children. That they must have some officers, must have a board of directors, must have some members.
If they do, I sure can’t find them Here is their web site, check it out for yourself.
They do not appear to be a non-profit according to a source at the Secretary of State’s office. Nor have they filed a 990 form with the IRS. They love the Alabama Accountability Act and promote the Alabama Opportunity Scholarship Fund, the scholarship granting organization which Bob Riley created and is run out of Florida.
And they have some rich friends. Like, really, really RICH. Like in some of the wealthiest people on the planet.
AFC showed up in 2014 when they began spending money in Alabama legislative races. Records from the Secretary of State’s website show that in the last 25 months they have received $450,000 in contributions. ALL of it from their very rich friends in faraway places. Friends who have some things in common such as being staunchly Republican, very supportive of Jeb Bush’s education reform ideas and interested in seeing as much privatization of public education as possible.
Folks such as:
Betsy DeVos of Michigan, is former chair of the Michigan Republican party, chair of the American Federation for Children and board member of Jeb Bush’s Foundation for Excellence in Education. She has been a fund-raiser for the Bush family and supported Michigan’s first charter school law. She also supported an unsuccessful effort in Michigan to allow tax-credit scholarships much like the accountability act does here. She gave $125,000 to the Alabama organization.
Dick DeVos is the husband of Betsy and an heir to the Amway fortunes. He is supposedly worth more than $5 billion. He ran unsuccessfully for governor of Michigan in 2006, spending more than $34 million of his own money. He and his wife gave $1 million to the Michigan GOP in 2012. He sent $25,000 to Alabama.
Jim Walton of Arkansas is the youngest son of Walmart founder, Sam Walton. His net worth is reportedly in excess of $40 billion. His family is a long time supporter of charter schools and vouchers. The Walton Foundation is the second largest non-profit supporter of education issues in the U.SA.. (The Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation is first.) He gave AFC $150,000.
William Oberndorf is a hedge fund manager in California who has contributed more than $1 million to that state’s Republican party. He has also donated hundreds of thousands of dollars to the Jeb Bush Foundation for Excellence in Education. He sent $100,000 to Alabama for political campaigns.
Alice Walton is Jim Walton’s sister and reported to be the richest woman on earth worth $33 billion. She is an avid art collector, having paid $35 million for a picture painted in 1849. She gave AFC $50.000.
That is a total of $450,000 sent to Alabama by out-of-state billionaires to buy seats in our legislature. This was spent on more than 30 House and Senate races in 2014, plus state school board races. Earlier this year AFC spent $74,458 on campaigns for Matt Brown and Justin Barkley for state school board. Both lost.
If your mama raised a curious child like me, you are wondering what is going on here?
In 2014 AFC gave $9,062 to elect Bob Fincher from Randolph County to the House of Representatives. Are we to really think a hedge fund manager in California is concerned about kids going to Woodland high school? They gave $12,297 to the unsuccessful campaign for Steve Dean for House seat District 35. Has Alice Walton ever been to Clay County, AL? They lost $9,768 on the campaign of Richard Baugh, House District 14. I doubt Betsy DeVos knows where Arley, AL is.
And they spent $33,057 trying to keep Rep. Mac Buttram from being defeated in House District 12. (He lost.) Do we really think a former candidate for governor in Michigan is worried about kids at Holly Pond high school?
Nope. Hard for me to believe that to these folks Alabama is little more than a speck on a map of a world where they want to use their money to control how our public schools are run. It ain’t about Woodland, Clay County, Arley or Holly Pond.
I also have a hard time believing that the Alabama Federation for Children is really about children at all. Instead, it’s like the hardware store, the doctor’s office and the saloons in that long ago cowboy movie. Someone just wants us to believe something that ain’t real.