By Lee Hedgepeth
Alabama Political Reporter
MONTGOMERY – Several people involved in the dubious financing of nationwide school-choice campaigns have teamed up with the ALGOP’s top political leadership in an effort that supported the reelection attempts of over a dozen incumbent Republicans in the June primaries to the tune of $170,000 – all from out of state funding sources.
With former ALGOP deputy political director and Hubbard loyal Ryan Cantrell as chairman, and Lisa Lisker, a publicly disgraced Nevada politico as treasurer, a PAC called Alabama Federation for Children has set up shop in the state, aiding campaigns by funneling West Coast education money into in-kind contributions to incumbent Republican state legislators.
These in-kind contributions, totaling six figures, went to incumbents through direct mail assistance this primary election cycle – both to legislators who won: Hubbard ($6,000), Marsh ($7,500), and Holley ($30,000), and to some who lost: Baughn ($10,000), Wallace ($3,000), and Buttram ($35,000).
Lisker, now treasurer of the Alabama PAC, is no stranger to in-kind contributions, either; she made national headlines when she and her former boss, US Senator John Ensign of Nevada, were dealt $32,000 in campaign finance fines when she was caught – and admitted to – illegally using excessive in-kind donations to help cover up an affair that led to the Senator’s eventual bow from public office.
Now Lisker is providing in-kind treasury services for the Alabama Federation for Children PAC, a group that is merely a state branch of the American Federation of Children. That umbrella organization was founded and is funded by the DeVoses, a family of Michigan millionaires that have financed “school choice” campaigns since the 1990s. Their PAC ventures included the group All Children Matter, also staffed by Lisa Lisker, an entity which was assessed the largest campaign finance fine in Ohio history – $5.2 million dollars – in 2008 for illegal funneling money from PAC to PAC.
The decision to fine the group the record breaking fee, according to Scot Ross of One Wisconsin Now, was reflective of the PAC’s disregard for the rules, and has an impact on this type of practice nationwide, something he has witnessed.
“This unanimous, bipartisan verdict in Ohio shows All Children Matter has little regard for the rules. Wisconsin’s Government Accountability Board should take strong action like Ohio to protect the integrity of Wisconsin’s elections and get to the bottom of how All Children operates to evade campaign finance disclosure laws.”
Though they lost an appeal of the fine, All Children Matter has yet to pay a penny of the penalty, arguing that they no longer have funds available with which to pay; the PAC was fined an additional $100 for another violation just this month, but it says it does not have the cash to pay that, either, a claim the Ohio Secretary of State says he is looking into.
But despite their apparent financial woes in the Buckeye State, the DeVoses and their political allies have yet to slow down in their political spending on education policies, even here in Alabama. Alabama Federation for Children’s founding donation was a whopping $50,000 from Elisabeth DeVos herself.
Currently, the Alabama Federation for Children PAC is still categorized as active and has about $30,000 left in campaign cash after the primary election cycle.