FOIA, Blogshine Sunday & Madison School Board Election sponsored blogshine Sunday, a day when news organizations run stories and editorials in support of public access to government information.
The internet has substantially improved citizen’s ability to see who is funding elected officials directly and indirectly.
The Madison City Clerk conveniently posts campaign finance information on their website. I took a quick look at PAC (political action committee) spending on school board races and found this:
Madison School Related PAC’s:

  • Citizens for investing in Madison Schools: apparently setup to support the June, 2003 referendum. Current Board Members Bill Keys and Bill Clingan’s campaigns contributed to this PAC (1000 and 800 respectively), as did Madison Teachers, Inc. (MTI) ($1500). This PAC raised and spent more than $30K in 2002/2003.
  • Get Real, a PAC that supported candidates who were not endorsed by Madison Teachers. Get Real raised and spent less than $1,000. Get Real made small donations to unsuccessful candidates Sam Johnson & Melania Alvarez. This organization’s campaign finance disclosure documents are signed by former Madison School Board member Nancy Harper.
  • Madison Teachers’s Madison Voters raised more than $40K in 2004 and spent about $34K on direct and indirect support of endorsed candidates (Johnny Winston, Jr., Shwaw Vang and Alix Olson – who lost to incumbent Ruth Robarts). MTI Voters July 20, 2004 report [pdf] showed cash on hand of $52K
  • Progressive Dane raised and spent less than $2,000 last year, including small contributions to Johnny Winston, Jr. and Shwaw Vang.

Every active member of the Madison School Board was endorsed by and received direct and indirect support from Madison Teachers, Inc. The only current exception is Ruth Robarts, who, while supported in the past by MTI, was opposed by MTI in her 2004 successful re-election campaign.

Wisconsin has a number of perspectives on this, from Feingold to Sensenbrenner to Doyle:

  • Russ Feingold generally refused 3rd party PAC money during his recent campaigns.
  • Milwaukee Area Republican Jim Sensenbrenner, operating from a safe seat, has taken great advantage of special interest money over the years, accepting 63% of his campaign funds from PAC’s during the 2003/2004 cycle.
  • Current Governor Jim Doyle has raised more money faster than former Governor Tommy Thompson (Thompson was known for raising buckets of campaign cash).
  • Milwaukee’s recent election difficulties were largely uncovered by Greg Borowski, who writes today about looming threats to our right to know.

What does this all mean? Perhaps nothing or everything. Sensenbrenner, a friend of Hollywood, accepts junkets to Hong Kong.
Closer to home, should Madison School Board candidates accept funds from special interests?
Current Board Member Bill Clingan (Candidate for Seat 6 in the April, 2005 election) chairs the Board’s Human Resources Committee which is currently negotiating a new contract with Madison Teachers. This issue was discussed at the recent Northside PTA candidate forum. Carol Carstensen, when asked for a yes or no answer to whether Madison Teachers should spend thousands of dollars to protect incumbents, answered no according to Lee Sensenbrenner. In the same article, Bill Clingan endorsed the rights of PAC’s and is proud to have their support. I did not find any PAC contributions to Lawrie Kobza’s campaign (pdf); Bill Clingan’s opponent or Larry Winkler (pdf) who is running against Carol Carstensen. I’ll update this information as additional filings (later in March) occur.
Background Links:
The District has a policy on Board Member’s public responsibilities (1540).
Excellent national campaign finance information:
State political information:
In closing, exercise your right to know. Check out these sites and most importantly, vote on April 5, 2005.