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Follow the charter money

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The New York Times reported recently about heavy campaign contributions to New York legislative candidates by players in the charter school debate there. That prompted us to take a look at followthemoney.org for spending by the wealthy businessmen leading charter school promotion in Arkansas.

Walmart heir Jim Walton, whose family has pumped millions into so-called education reform, has contributed $41,700 to more than three dozen legislative candidates in the 2010 cycle, including a $1,000 contribution to former teacher union leader Rep. Linda Pondexter Chesterfield.

Other backers of the school reform lobby created to push charter schools (and the group leading an attack on the Little Rock School District for its objection to some charters) include Jackson T. Stephens Jr., who's given $4,000 to legislative candidates, and former Murphy Oil CEO Claiborne Deming, who's given more than $5,600 to legislative candidates. Most of his slate – Lenville Evans, Curren Everett, Johnny Hoyt, Linda Tyler and John Paul Wells – turned up on Walton's list as well.

Luke Gordy, paid lobbyist for rich men, gave $1,000 to Gov. Mike Beebe.

Democrat-Gazette publisher Walter Hussman made no financial contributions, but his in-kind contributions to the cause turn up frequently in the pages of his Arkansas newspapers, from editorials to news coverage.

GOP squabble

The Executive Committee of the state Republican Party will get a report this Saturday on a simmering dispute arising from the contested election that saw Rep. John Burris succeed Rep. Bryan King as leader of the House Republican caucus.

Nobody wants to talk on the record, but the controversy revolves around the decision of new leadership in April to shift the caucus PAC's roughly $35,000 bank account to a new bank in Little Rock and to establish procedures that would end a practice of Republican Party executive director Chase Dugger writing checks from the account as directed by caucus leader King. All oversight is now in the hands of a committee of legislators.

King, who hasn't returned calls, apparently wasn't happy to learn that the old account was closed and a check written by Dugger to transfer the money without his knowledge. The Republican Party, whose past history includes a few bookkeeping mishaps, isn't anxious to have even a minor dispute break in the open and detract fromwhat they believe will be a banner election year.

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