Rarely has the political payoff for a special interest group been as quick or blatant.
The American Federation for Children, one of the leading advocates for school choice in the country, brags in a recent brochure that it spent more than $325,000 – far more than the group has previously made public – to help elect state Sen. Rick Gudex in a closely contested Wisconsin race last fall.
Gudex won his seat by less than 600 votes.
Then, last week, the freshman lawmaker joined two other Senate Republicans in saying they were drawing a line in the sand by vowing to oppose a state budget bill if it doesn’t include an expansion of the state’s school voucher program.
“The American Federation of Children got exactly what they wanted,” said Mike McCabe, head of the left-leaning election watchdog group Wisconsin Democracy Campaign. “They want legislators who will go to the mat and make expanding the voucher program the bottom line.”
Just as interesting, McCabe said, is that the school choice organization is saying in its own material that it spent twice as much helping Gudex as it reported to state regulators. McCabe said his group is looking into filing an election complaint.
A source familiar with the American Federation’s political spending in Wisconsin called such a complaint “frivolous.” The organization, the source said, had abided by Wisconsin election laws.