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Pelto Files Campaign Finance Complaints Involving Education Ballot Initiative

December 7th, 2012 · 7 Comments · Analysis and Comment, Education

Government watchdog Jonathan Pelto www.jonathanpelto.com has filed additional elections complaints in connection with the November ballot question in which voters rejected a mayoral-appointed school board. Pelto column:

The country’s leading public education advocate, Diane Ravitch, has a post on her blog today with the news that Kevin Johnson, the Mayor of Sacramento California, and husband of education reformer Michelle Rhee, has been fined $37,500 by the California Fair Political Practices Commission, for failing to report donations of at least $3.5 million to a number of his personal initiatives, including his Teach for America education reform effort and his “Think Big Arena Task Force.”

Among the unreported donations was $500,000 from the pro-education, ultra-conservative Walton Foundation, operated by the family that owns Wal-Mart. The Walton Foundation has also provided funds to education reform groups active in Connecticut.

California may not be the only state investigating alleged illegal activities by Mayor Johnson, Michelle Rhee or their related organizations.

Based upon a complaint I filed, Connecticut’s State Elections Enforcement Commission has opened an official investigation into the alleged campaign finance violations of Residents for a Better Bridgeport, the political action committee that was created to support Bridgeport Mayor Bill Finch’s unsuccessful effort to eliminate Bridgeport’s democratically elected Board of Education and replace it with one appointed by himself.

The complaint identified a variety of alleged violations perpetrated by Residents for a Better Bridgeport including failure to reveal donations and expenditures, as required by law.

Last week, I filed two additional complaints, one against Excel Bridgeport and the other against the Great New England Public Schools Alliance, the front group set up by Michelle Rhee’s organization, StudentsFirst.

According to the complaints, neither Excel Bridgeport nor GNEPSA came close to fulfilling its legal obligation to file reports on time or properly account for donations and expenditures related to their campaign activities for Finch and his referendum.

One of the additional issues raised in the complaints relate to who paid for Sacramento Mayor Kevin Johnson’s trip to Bridgeport where he campaigned with Bridgeport Mayor Bill Finch and Superintendent of Schools Paul Vallas on behalf of Finch’s anti-democracy referendum.

Neither Citizens for a Better Bridgeport, Excel Bridgeport or GNEPSA reported any expenses related to Mr. Johnson’s campaign swing through Bridgeport.

The complaints allege multiple violations of Connecticut law. Each of the three groups could face significant fines should they be found guilty.

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7 Comments so far ↓

  • Joel Gonzalez

    Go Pelto, Go!

  • The Bridgeport Kid

    Ain’t politics great?

  • John Marshall Lee

    Do you believe the system works some of the time? Did you ever believe the statements, “It’s all about the kids?” Did you buy Bill Finch’s comments to the Charter Review group he wanted the power so he could be “Accountable?” So where are we today?

    Well it sounds like ACCOUNTABILITY time is upon us. All that money to spend to get the YES vote. All of the attention from the City Council, the members of the Board of Education, the BRBC raising significant funds from local businesses and non-profits and the media going along with ‘educational governance reform’ as the cover for Finch control of all administrative levers in the City.

    And they lost, because enough people in the community got over ego, narrow agendas and history, and worked together. They connected with enough voters who were willing to register a NO rather than ignore the question. And that was a real win in this City for the average voter/taxpayer who may not be informed to the nth degree but who has a sense of what message has traction and which was false.

    Mayor Bill, you need to work on your financial communication big time. The City is not fiscally credible at this time. Why not inform the public about your next meeting with the rating agencies. Let the public attend and understand the story you are telling. Then maybe we can follow the bouncing ball. Let’s see who is doing the talking and who is answering the hard questions in the inner circle these days.

    This afternoon I went to City Hall to get the latest monthly financial report. You must remember this is the one that per the current Charter is supposed to be provided by the 4th Friday of the following month including expenses, revenues and variances every month of the year! It is also the one that has had multiple format changes since the departure of Dawn Norton to New Canaan and the installation of Anne Kelly-Lenz as Finance Director.

    Drum roll … the last report received and available to taxpayers as of this afternoon is August and that showed up in October. So, just what is Budget and Appropriations studying these days? Storm Sandy in their navels? Can’t be financial reports. THERE ARE NO FISCAL CHECKS AND BALANCES in BRIDGEPORT TODAY! The King has no clothes, and the City cupboard is probably pretty bare, too. Ask you City Councilperson, half of whom were learning about municipal governance at a meeting out of state, courtesy of City stipends. They wish us to know nothing about who is spending what amount and for what and yet certain individuals are spending but for what.

    Raise the alarm. All of the stipend money is spent each year and the purchase records show less than half the amount that Sherwood shows in the budget approval process. What gives? The money is gone. The cupboard is bare. And so are the explanations from our City representatives. Time will tell.

  • Mojo

    *** I would not be too confidant on the SEEC findings if any, let alone reasonable fines or violations. Once again, all bark and no bite! *** GOOD LUCK! ***

  • yahooy

    JML. We are fortunate the YES issue was placed before the voters in a presidential year when high voter turnout is expected. We would not have prevailed had it come up at any other time. A good lesson for the brain-dead registered voters of this town who continually complain but fail to go to the polls.

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