Friday, April 6, 2007

MEA money on board!

Frank Beckmann’s column today covers an issue that focuses on Rochester, but extends into school boards all around the state.

It is MEA Political Action Committee contributions to school board candidates.

Detroit News: Did donations fuel school pact? (04/06/07)

The State of Michigan has a searchable database of Political Action Committees, or PACs. It can be reached by clicking here. You simply enter the name, or part of the name, and the system will find all of the PACs that meet your search criteria. It can be fun to try to a guess what names they've created. Try the name of your city, or the name of your county. Type in "Educator" or "Education". The MEA has created many of these PACs, so it's not hard to stumble onto them.

The link to the MEA PAC records can be viewed by clicking here. Select the report, and then look at the INTERNET FILED DATA, then ITEMIZED DIRECT EXPENDITURES. If there is no internet data, then click on the PDF copies.

What you’ll find is a complicated series of transactions that shuffles money to and from various PACs. The MEA PAC will provide money to local PACs, who sometimes spend it on local candidates, and sometimes funnel it back to the MEA PAC.

Viewing July statements will typically reveal the contributions to school board candidates (because of the goofy May elections).

The local PAC in Rochester (which includes Avondale) is nicknamed EPAC, and can be viewed by clicking here. You'll need to look at the PDF version. If you check out the July statements, you'll find many recognizable names, even dating back to 1995! Also notice that in addition to direct contributions, the PAC also does "member mailings", where they apparently campaign on behalf of the candidate by sending endorsements to union members.

Macomb County residents will find that many of their school board trustees receive contributions from the Local 1 PAC, as shown here. For example, going back just a few years and looking at the July statements shows regular activity for two districts:

$500 (max allowed) to EACH of the following:
April, 2006: Committee to Elect Sara Murray (Romeo)
April, 2006: Committee to Elect Sue Heir (Romeo)
July, 2005: Committee to Elect Dale Chesney (Romeo)
July, 2005: Committee to Elect Denise Aquino (Chippewa Valley)
July, 2005: Committee to Elect George Sabah (Chippewa Valley)
July, 2004: Committee to Elect Harry Chiodina (Chippewa Valley)
July, 2004: Committee to Elect Kathleen Wreford (Romeo)
July, 2004 Committee to Elect Kenneth Pearl (Chippewa Valley)
July, 2003: Committee to Elect Frank Bednard (Chippewa Valley)

This MEA PAC money is sloshing around everywhere, where many of us believe it is working to the detriment of our schools, and our children.

==> Mike.


Frank Beckmann
Did donations fuel school pact?

We've heard many cries for campaign finance reform at the national and the state level.

To date, effective change has eluded us, leaving the public numb from the fruitless process and leaving some candidates free to pursue donations from sources that create a politically incestuous relationship.

The Rochester school contract provides the perfect example.

The deal provides very modest pay increases of 1 percent and 2 percent for top of scale teachers over the next two years, but the dissenting members claim the devil is in the details.

Board members Mike Reno and Steve Kovacs charge that their colleagues approved a pact which grants much larger percentage pay raises to teachers with less experience.

The union pay scale advances by what are called "steps" in the contract.

Various "steps" in the new deal will see teachers receive pay increases of 7.3 percent on one riser, 8.4 percent on another, and 11.6 percent on a third.

In addition, Reno and Kovacs say their district has failed to deal with rising health care costs because the new contract does not require teachers to contribute to their health insurance premiums.

They say this will leave the district with a $5 million shortfall next year and a $10 million budget hole in 2008-2009.

Typically, school board candidates don't have to file campaign finance reports because they spend less than the threshold amount of $1,000 on their election bids.

But a pair of Rochester board members, Tim Greimel and Vice President Michelle Shepherd, may have set a record standard.

Their finance reports show they each received $3,000 contributions from the Michigan Education Association PAC.

Much of the remainder of their 2005 campaign dollars came from individual teachers who benefited by the district's new deal.

The two, who approved the costly new Rochester contract, received a combined total of more than $17,400.

The interests of the MEA and its members are protected by friends in many high places.

Sadly, taxpayers cannot always claim the same.

Frank Beckmann is host of "The Frank Beckmann Show" on WJR (760 AM) from 9-11:30 a.m. Monday-Friday. His column is published on Friday. E-mail letters to


David Zemens said...

I posted an article with my thoughts about this issue over at my blog, Rochester News & Views. I got a response from school board member Tim Greimel, who offered his explanation for the donations he receives. It might be worth Rochester News & Viewstaking a look at.

Anonymous said...

When I went to the State of Michigan site I had a hard time finding the information. I finally located the actual items showing the MEA contributing $3,000 to Tim Greimel and $3,000 to Michelle Shepherd in their campaign for School board.

For other's who run into problems, here's some help: go to this link and scroll down. They were the 23 and 24th entry on the page.

Anonymous said...

Hmm...not nearly as hard as it is to find out info on the EAG.

Kettle, meet pot.