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Never Trump Republican from California pours money into Alabama primary races


A major Republican donor who has donated over a $1 million to the California Republican Party has inserted himself in the primaries on Tuesday.

William Oberndorf supported Jeb Bush for president in 2016 and vowed to never support Donald Trump. He backed Mitt Romney in 2012 but donated to Barack Obama in 2008. He has also supported Senator Diane Feinstein, D-Calif. He has made a $35,000 contribution to the Alabama Federation for Children PAC.

The Alabama Federation for Children PAC has, in turn, spent $39,999 on direct mail buys from Kansas City-based AXIOM Strategies, which most recently managed Luther Strange’s unsuccessful campaign for U.S. Senate. The Kansas City group also managed Ted Cruz’s 2016 campaign for president.

The Alabama Federation for Children is supporting several candidates including Richard “Bull” Corry, R-Oakman, with an $8,400 contribution. Corry is running for the House of Representatives in district 14 challenging incumbent state Representative Tim Wadsworth, R-Arley.

The Alabama Federation for Children PAC is also supporting Jelani “Shaun” Coleman, D-Selma, with a $3005 contribution. Coleman is running against state Representative Prince Chestnutt, D-Selma, in the Democratic primary on June 5.

The Alabama Federation for Children is chaired by Ryan Cantrell.

Cantrell was a political strategist employed by the Alabama Republican Party when Mike Hubbard was ALGOP Chairman and helped engineer the 2010 elections which swept the Republican Party into power in Alabama. The Alabama Federation for Children favors expanding school choice by diverting more education dollars into granting scholarships for students to attend private schools as well as charter schools.

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Tim Wadsworth told the Alabama Political Reporter, “I am opposed to the Alabama Federation of Children PAC. They are an Anti-Public Education group. Under their legislation, there has been no scholarships given out to Winston County students and only 8 scholarships given to Walker County students. Both Boards of Education combined have lost over $1,400,000 because of the Alabama Accountability Act. Alabama Federation for Children does not support public education and has taken $1,400,000 from Winston and Walker County Public Schools because of that Act. I am opposed to the Alabama Accountability Act.”

The group is also spending $4044 in direct mail to attack GOP candidate Tom Fredericks, R-Priceville. Fredericks faces Parker Duncan Moore, R-Decatur, in House District 4. Moore just won the seat in a special election on May 15; but now faces a Republican primary for the next four years.

Fredericks told APR, “Parker has aligned himself with some unscrupulous folks, and if he goes to Montgomery, we should expect he will continue to do so.”

Wadsworth and Fredericks were both heavily involved in the 2016 Trump campaign at a very early stage; while Oberdorf was bitterly disappointed that Jeb Bush did not get the GOP nomination. Alabama played a critical role in giving Trump the momentum that propelled Trump to the nomination and ultimately the presidency; while Jeb Bush floundered under the verbal assaults he received from Trump who called him “No energy Jeb.”

During the primaries, Oberndorf told the New York Times, “If it is Trump versus Clinton I will be voting for Hillary.”

“California Anti Trump and Anti Public Education Money was dumped at last minute against me on May 30, 2018 in House District 14,” Wadsworth said. “I support President Trump’s policies and public education and will continue to fight for President Trump and support full funding of public education.”

Oberndorf is credited with negotiating the truce between Romney and Jeb Bush that resulted in Gov. Romney not running for President in 2016 in the assumption that Gov. Bush would be the presumptive GOP nominee. No one knew then that GOP primary voters were not eager for a third Bush to serve as President or that Trump would enter the GOP field; much less run away with it.

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Oberndorf lives in San Francisco.

According to Bloomberg, Oberndorf, also known as Bill, is a Co-Founder and Managing Director at SPO Advisory Corp. He is the Chairman of Rosewood Hotels & Resorts. Mr. Oberndorf is also a Director Emeritus of Plum Creek Timber Co. He is also a Director of Calpine Corp effective Janurary 1, 2011. Before that, Mr. Oberndorf served as the Chairman of Voyager Learning Company and Aggregates USA, LLC and a Director of Taft Broadcasting Company and Wometco Cable Television Corporation.

APR does not know whether Mr. Oberndorf has ever visited Arley, Selma, Decatur, Priceville, Muscle Shoals, Leeds, Heflin, Valley, etc. though he apparently does desire to influence who represents these places in the Alabama House of Representatives.

In addition to the above contributions, Cantrell has distributed the Oberndorf money to support GOP House candidates Debbie Wood $2678 and Andrew Sorrell $7026. Cantrell is also spending Oberndorf’s money to oppose Republican House candidates Ginny Shaver $4006 and Ted Crockett $7702. All of the money is being spent at AXIOM Strategies on direct mail.

Brandon Moseley is a former reporter at the Alabama Political Reporter.


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