Thursday, August 30, 2007

Beckmann Interviews Steve Kovacs on Campaign Finance Pledge

Trustee Steve Kovacs of the Rochester School Board is running for re-election on the 2007 November ballot. He is one of six candidates.

He created a pledge (found here) that he has asked all of the candidates to sign.


The pledge basically affirms that each candidate will put the interests of children first, and refrain from accepting campaign contributions from special interest groups that may distract from that priority.

I think this is a good idea. By signing -- and abiding by -- the pledge, candidates can avoid making choices that may later compromise their objectivity.

I also find it disappointing that one would even need to create such a pledge.


And for those that don't think it's needed, check out this list from the Education Action Group (EAG).

WJR Radio Personality Frank Beckmann interviewed Steve on this topic, and the interview can be
heard by clicking here. (If you would prefer to download the file and listen to it as a podcast, you can right-click on the link and "Save target As".)

16 comments:

David Zemens said...

I think it is a terrific idea, Mike. School board members who consider the children first and not the teachers, employees or others that stand to benefit from decisions of the board.

It really is sad that elected officials in the most basic of offices, like school boards and local city councils, have difficulty making decisions and taking stances that are not motivated by money.

Would you like to take a bet on how many of the other candidates, other than Steve, sign such a document?

Anonymous said...

I see no restriction on in kind contributions from fello board members.

Especially those in the direct mail buisness.

And the one who grossly under reports the fair market value of said contributions.

Do you think anyone is fooled by this?

Anonymous said...

Hey Dave: when Mike signs the Code of Cooperation, we might get others to join in on Steve's.

OH I forgot.

Steve signed "Under Consideration"

What does that mean.

You guys crack me up.

LOL

Mike Reno said...

I see from the stats log, Marty, that you keep checking back to see if I'm going to respond to your digs.

I'd be happy to debate the merits of Steve's pledge. But, just as your comments the other night at the board meeting, you are trying to make a statement rather than discuss.

Your first point about boardmember comments is not relevent to Steve's pledge. Unions or district suppliers stand to profit from board member votes, whereas fellow board members do not.

Furthermore, board members are residents, and have the same rights as other citizens to support candidates. The past several elections show that various board members have contributed to incumbents and challengers. Steve's pledge does not attempt to prevent that.

Nor does it attempt to prevent individual teachers from contributing to candidates.

What it does attempt to prevent is contributions from those that have a financial interest in the victory -- or defeat -- of a particular candidate.

Furthermore, the PAC's have an unfair advantage because they are not subject to the funding limits as individuals. An individual would not be able to contribute $3000 to a candidate, whereas a PAC can (and did).

Anonymous said...

Let's debate the merits of Steve's pledge. Aside from a possible profit from a supplier such as our "favorite" builders or archetects, what does any of this have to do with quality education?

I hear from possible suppliers to the district about some of the cozy deals going on. Many of my long term friends in buisness feel locked out on items such as building hardware. But I want to see the big picture.

Show me the real cost per pupil of these cozy relationships not hypotheticals.

Then evaluate the opportunity cost of too much shopping while we wait to get anything done.

I don't like the cozy relationships but this is all too much ado about nothing. It is hardly a campaign platform.

You go on and on about the no bid process yet you have no evidence that our district has been gouged or that someone has run off with pockets full of cash.

You say that the unions have an unfair advantage.

OK how did you get on this board if it were not for the union and a bad endorsement?

You didn't mind the union diverting those 1500 votes back then.

Now after two failed attempts to "take over" the board you cry foul.

I agree that big money can cause big problems. But you helped bring this ou yourself.

You backed a PAC that is now history and made lots of negative noise about a good district.

Did you expect that we would not notice?

What was the actual street value of the DVDs you made and mailed last election.

You perform services for other candidates and they file a waiver. We NEVER know the real value of your "in-kind" support.

You don't have to claim it but they do.

So isn't it cozy that you give candadate A x dollars of "fair market value" and you tell them it's only $450.00 actual value.

Not your cost Mike.

The real value!

Let's debate your activities too.

I told you long ago. You can "Get" the other board members or you can do something good for the kids.

You chose to get the others.

Bad choice.

Unlike your FAILED friends I'm not going away.

Marty

Or maybe someone else.

Mike Reno said...

I have not "made lots of negative noise about a good district." What I attempt to do is identify changes that will improve the district.

There are over 100 postings I've made on this site alone, and they are almost entirely dedicated to improving our schools. They focus on measurable results, accountability, and open government.

Almost all of the feedback I receive suggests that most people view my work objectively, regardless of whether they agree with it or not. You simply choose to react to it in a negative and angry way.

But back to the whole point of this particular post, the value brought by this pledge is that it will hopefully cause decisions to be made on what is in the best interests of the students, not in the best interests of district suppliers or unions.

If you believe that Steve's pledge should be tougher, then offer those suggestions to him. But don't use diversionary tactics in an effort to discredit it.

Anonymous said...

You see it as negative and angry and that is your right.

I see it as just the tip of an iceberg out there that you dismiss.

I do think it should be tougher.

Kopy-Rite and Mike Reno are suppliers of video etc. to the district. You have said so yourself.

Will you NOT be helping Steve with direct mail, buisness card printing, DVD, and other in-kind as you have done before?

The pledge as I see it means that you have to sit on the sidelines too.

This is not diversionary.

This is the root of this issue.

Mike Reno said...

You should've been a lawyer, Marty! You're quite good at twisting things.

But you've twisted them in a cheap-shot way that you know is wrong.

I'm not a SUPPLIER to the district, I'm a CONTRIBUTOR.

RCS has never cut a check to me for anything.

The videos you mention are something that Kopy-Rite has manufactured, and I've donated to the district every year for three or more years.

The Foundation then sells the graduation videos as a fundraiser.

The products I've donated have probably generated over $20,000 in revenue to the Rochester Foundation, and at no cost to the district.

I've contributed manufacturing services to aid instructional projects and dontated raw materials for electronic portfolios.

I've donated manufacturing services for school specific fundraisers that have probably raised several thousand dollars for the schools.

The difference here is that it's a one-way street for me. I contribute, but I don't get business back from the district.

In fact, you may recall that my company did business with a district supplier. When I learned about it, I severed the business relationship by sending a letter to the President of the company telling them that unfortunately my duty to the district outweighed my business interests in working with their company.

You keep dodging the issue of the union contributions. Do you not see a problem with the MEA PAC contributing a substantial sum of money to board candidates, and then having those same board members vote on the union contracts?

Anonymous said...

Semanitcs Mike. I'm not twisting anything.

You have still supplied services. The price is a semantic detail.

If you want to end ALL of these you need to sit out as well.

You are quick to tout the value of the "free" contributions.

You have NEVER come clean with your "contributions" to the campaigns of others.

I see your involvement in the same light as the unions.

Both as less than clean home town politics.

I am making my case with you. The unions are a factor. So are your in-kind.

I want to see all of it stopped and get back to simple mom and dads.

You however have brought in big party politics and the union has stepped up to battle your tactics.

To me both you and the unions have made a mess.

Semantics Mike. You say twisted.

I say good chess moves.

Check.

Mike Reno said...

This may be some form of entertainment to you, Marty, but it's not to me.

It's not some game.

Anonymous said...

You wanted a debate and now you have one.

Please answer my questions.

You are evasive when the challenging questions come your way.

From my perspective you have been playing games since 2004.

My intent is to pull back the curtian that you hide behind.

Please answer the questions.

Mike Reno said...

You're not asking challenge questions. In fact, you're not asking questions at all.

You toss out accusations as if they are statements of fact, and they're not. For example, I printed-up a handful of business cards for a challenger a few years ago, and you attempt to twist that into some sort of illegal or sinister activity.

You really seem bothered by in-kind contributions I made last year, and have tossed out unfounded accusations, but the only way that is remotely related to the topic here is that it's one board member to contributing to a candidate campaign.

This forum is about ideas; the place for you to lob those other accusations is the Michigan Secretary of State.

If your point is about boardmember contributions, then you could've made that point without dragging in the mud. And you could've mentioned how every board member -- not just me -- has participated financially in campaigns with the hope of helping to elect trustees with similar philosophies. By the way, I'm not sure how that is a conflict of interest; financially or morally, so perhaps you could share your thoughts on that.

You toss out silly comments like "trying to overthrow the board". If you are accusing me of trying to get people elected that are similarly engaged, fiscally responsible, and academically oriented, then I'm guilty as charged! You do the same, and work to get people elected that support your philosophies, don't you?

Similarly, I'm sure the special interest PACs are donating to candidates that they feel are philosophically aligned with the PAC's interests. The difference is that you and I are not going to benefit financially if those we support get elected.

Steve's pledge is an effort to make things better, and help to make sure trustees and board decision are above reproach. You are obviously not happy about it, but don't really provide any detailed reason for opposing it. You resort to cheap pot-shots, rather than offering rational points on why you don't like the pledge.

When pressed on whether you support the premise of the pledge, you say you do. But then you launch into more attacks and unfounded allegations.

If what you are trying to do is make constructive suggestions on how to improve the system, then let's stick to that.

If what you are suggesting is that board members not be allowed to contribute to and support board candidates, then simply state it that way. Include your reasoning. You can do it without insulting anyone.

If what you are suggesting is that all board candidates create campaign committees to track spending (and contributions), then simply say that. I support that notion. (For anyone following this thread, the state campaign finance laws state that a candidate spending or receiving less than $1000 does not need to file reports). I agree that the $1000 spending cutoff does create suspicion, and does leave the door open for innocent people to be accused of mischief. I'd encourage all candidates to file statements, regardless of how much they spend or receive.

In fact, if I had the opportunity to re-write the campaign finance laws, I'd go a step further. I believe that any PAC that supports a candidate (or opposes their challenger) be required to report that spending to the candidate, who would then in turn be required to include that support under "Uncoordinated Support" on their finance statements (meaning that the candidate had nothing to do with the support). This would allow everyone to "follow the money".

I'd also require that all donors be identified by their employer. Right now, only those that donate over $100 are required to report their employer.

Having said all of this, I want to emphasize that I don't believe Steve's Pledge was intended to be an overhaul of the campaign finance laws. I think he is trying to prevent the financial conflict of interest (or the appearance of a financial conflict of interest) that occurs when a donor with a financial relationship to district contributes to an official that negotiates and establishes the parameters of that financial relationship.

If you think that is wrong, then say so in a constructive way. If you'd like to see the pledge's objective expanded, then say so in a constructive way.

And finally, with all of the time you've put into reviewing my blog, and sharing your thoughts, why don't you create an account rather than remain "anonymous"?

Anonymous said...

Obviously you won't answer the questions about the "fair market value" of ANY of your past contributions. So much for openness and transparency.

I want you to also help us understand how Alice and "The Can of Worms" PAC came across Econ Marketing if it were not for your help. That day I found you at Econ I was tracking down that rather accurate but bad taste letter that they sent out.

You tipped your hand and whispered "what are you doing here? Looking for the source of the 20/20 literature?"

You have not been truthful from the board table and with your constituients regarding your past campaign involvement. And I intend to hammer this issue home.

There is more going on behind the scenes than simple buisness cards.

But there I go with more "unfounded accusations".


The State won't investigate and you know that very well.

Here are my agruements regarding the pledge.

1) It still leaves loop holes open where suppliers that are not paid or otherwise compensated are not mentioned. If you want ONLY simple folks to contribute, then all of the suppliers must sit on the sidelines.

2) Even if they were the rules are too loose. The definitions are missing on what level of vendor or supplier.

3) It is overbraod and would never pass if it were codified into law. It is an attempt to re-write campaign finance law. That's OK since Lansing won't do it.

4) It seeks to block folks like the Rewold family from contributing while Kopy Rite has a hall pass.

5) If signed and striclty followed this has NOTHING to do with the education our kids deserve. No proof exists of any wrong doing for anyone here. No proof exists that this will level the playing field. Creative people always find loop holes.

6) It is "feel-good" legislation. This is like the Code of Conduct. You never answered why you would not sign. Well it's pretty obvious, they, wanted to muzzle you and you won't be tamed. It's OK to stand out. In 20 years what will we have to prove that this issue fixed anything?

And lastly.

Look at the time we have wasted on this one non-issue.

If you want help let's go after those mission test scores from the state.

Rather that stand on your soap box and yell "ain't it awful the unions are greedy", provide me and everyone else a number that fits your definition of "meaningful cuts". We are going in a ditch slowly since costs are way out of control. But complaints only won't fix it.

Once we have hard numbers on a per teacher basis, we can start the process to negotiate/sell it.

From my perspective you make great sound bite points and then either blame everyone else or just fan the flames.

I too can fan the flames as you are now all too aware.

I have done all my nasty work in public. You have responded here and in the paper.

To anyone out there reading this, they must think we are the most petty thing they have ever wittnessed.

I don't need an account because you will make sure everyone knows who wrote this.

So I bid you farewell on this subject. It has taken too much of my time but I needed to know how far you are willing to go and NEVER answer those nagging questions.

Until another debatable subject I wiss you well Br'er Rabbit.

Mike Reno said...

It's one thing to disagree with someone's position, Marty.

I'm well aware that there are people that respectfully disagree with me.

What is unclear is why you are so bitter. Bitter enough to approach slander and libel...

The fair market value of my contributions have been filed, publicly. You appear to be the only one disputing it with your unfounded accusations.

You toss out the unfounded accusation that I'm supporting some effort to stop any families or individuals from participating in elections, when I've clearly said I'm not. I'm simply trying to stop companies and special interest PACs.

And you were in the audience when I very clearly explained why I thought the Code of Conduct was silly. I believe my comments were even quoted in the Eccentric.

Yes, there you go again with unfounded accusations.

And while you appear to be proud of your flame-thrower role, I'd like to point out that you are doing it on my public forum. My name is on the campaign finance statements of those I've supported (with the one business card exception you mentioned). And my name is on the articles I've written. I'm not hiding behind "anonymous".

And your tendency to pepper your comments with unfounded accusations does not advance your argument. For example, I've answered a number of your questions here, even though some were answered in previous posts. But, I'm sure they're not answered to your satisfaction because you are not looking for answers as part of what you so proudly describe as your "nasty work".

As far as meaningful cuts, well, I've defined that too. There is no reason that we can't get the cost of our healthcare down to what is commonly paid in the private sector, which is about 25% less. The cost savings don't entirely come from making the employees pay; they largely come from controlling unnecessary utilization.

For example, no 35+ annual visits to the chiropractor; no therapeutic massages, etc, and through helping those covered to become more conscious consumers by adding deductibles and copays. McGraw-Wentworth has conducted a rather detailed annual study with very specific suggestions. I've recommended that we bring them in for a discussion, but was overruled.

Finally, I'm not sure what you mean by "mission test scores."

And while I agree that this has been an unproductive exchange, it is about the children. This hits directly at the heart of the spending problems schools face. Using special interest money to potentially influence decision-makers can cause decisions that are not in the best interests of our kids. Obscenely large class size and academic program cuts are but two symptoms.

So, while it would appear our dialogue has run it's course, I guess I'll just look forward to the next time you feel the need to "hammer me."

Sailor Moon said...

Mike,

Don't take the bait!

He (she?) are working to see that union needs at the school board table are met. That Rochester gravy train has to be kept on track delivering their goods.

This guy (girl?) snarls and tries to egg you on, while the anointed one (Talbert) keeps her distance on the sidelines whispering about "divisive" board members with "special interests".

The union has enough school board "representation" already.

Let's give Rochester students and their parents some for a change!

Support Kovacs & our kids. Sign Steve's pledge!

Konni said...

Wow this sure is interesting reading, but all of the anonymous blogs do indeed sound like they are coming from Marty Rosalik. Unfortunately these blogs have quite a bit of unfactual information. I am personally offended by this especially since some of the accusations being tossed around relate directly to me.

My name is Konni Larson-Behounek and I ran for the Rochester School Board in the May 2005 election.
I have two points to make concerning the anonymous blogs posted above.

1. Some of the comments that offend me by their utter lack of facts include the following quotes, referring to Mike Reno such as...

----------------------------
"And the one who grossly under reports the fair market value of said contributions"

"You perform services for other candidates and they file a waiver. We NEVER know the real value of your "in-kind" support."

"Will you NOT be helping Steve with direct mail, buisness card printing, DVD, and other in-kind as you have done before?"

"You have NEVER come clean with your "contributions" to the campaigns of others."
---------------------------------

When I ran for the board I did my own books for my campaign committee. I received one In-Kind Contribution which was the printing of 125 business cards by Mike Reno. The value of these cards were accounted in the total amount of money I spent for my campaign.

I asked Mike Reno the fair market price for these business cards and then I went a step further. Because I'm a detail person I called Kinko's to obtain the cost to print out business cards with the same specifications that I received. I was told their fair market price. Mike Reno's price was in the range which I was quoted by Kinko's and thus I was confident that the price would stand any scrutiny.

As I used my own personal money for this campaign and ACCEPTED NO DONATIONS other than the aforementioned In-Kind Contribution of business cards from Mike, I can say without a doubt that I spent less than $1,000 total to run my campaign for the Rochester School Board.

As the State only required me to provide a signed waiver rather than a full cost reporting due to the small amount of funds spent on this campaign, I followed the law to the letter while completing the paperwork.

In hindsight, however, seeing how people like you twist the facts in an attempt to throw blame on others, I wish I would have gone the extra step to complete a full cost reporting. Then these accusations could never occur.

I will admit that I personally made one small mistake while running the campaign (because I am a PTA mom who is interested in the best schools for our kids, rather than being a seasoned political professional). I did not ask Mike Reno to print my campaign identification number and committee information on the business card itself.

After reading the State's lengthy and difficult campaign finance law information I made an error. I thought the business cards fit under the heading of small promotional items rather than advertising materials. Small sized promotional items are not required to have the campaign committee ID number and information. However, all Advertising materials are required to have this identification posted.

Thus the business cards were incorrect as they did not contain this information in small print on their backs.

However, rather than bringing this honest mistake to my attention, Martin Rosalik (aka Marty), so I could dispose of them and correct the business card information immediately -- you choose to be much more covert. Rather, you personally filed a complaint against me with the State of Michigan.

This complaint caused me needless worry as I recieved a letter in my Saturday mail (during the Memorial Day holiday) from the State of Michigan. The letter stated that "a knowing violation of this requirement is a misdemeanor, punishable by a fine of up to $1,000 and/or imprisonment for up to 90 days".

Thus, I was in a state of worry all weekend until I was finally able to contact the Bureau of Regulatory Services department on Tuesday. Finally after contacting them, I was able to find the complaint had already been dropped. I still retain the follow up letter from the State of Michigan dated June 7, 2005 to prove that the complaint you did indeed file with the state of Michigan had been investigated and was closed with no further action taken by the state. The letter itself said, "This letter should be construed as a notice, and NOT AS A FINDING OF WRONGDOING".

Yet, Marty Rosalik, you have continued to go around making insinuations regarding the "business cards" via emails to other PTA members, on this blog, etc. in what appears to be an effort to tarnish Mike Reno's reputation.

Given that this directly concerns me, I could do nothing else but respond directly to the anonymous blogs posted here.


2. The second unfactual item made by the "anonymous" blogger stated,

"OK how did you get on this board if it were not for the union and a bad endorsement?"

This was in reference to Mike Reno's election. To refresh your memory, Mike Reno did not receive the Union endorsement when he ran for the School Board in 2004. Anna Reseigh and one other person (I believe it was a retired bus driver or union member)running for the board were the two candidates who received the Union Endorsement. Either 5 or 6 candidates ran that year (of which one of the candidates was Martin (Marty) Rosalik.

The results were that Mike Reno and Anna Reseigh were elected to the Rochester School Board.

Mike Reno won the seat through his hard work, time spent meeting and talking with parents and residents, as well as his effective marketing efforts.

It seems to me that all of Marty Rosalik's efforts to tarnish Mike Reno all stem from this one event -- and the fact that Mike Reno won the Rochester School Board election while Marty did not.

Sour grapes indeed!