November 3, 2016
Jim Scheurich, Indianapolis citizen & IUPUI university professor
On Friday, October 28th, the Recorder published an article by McCoy of Chalkbeat Indiana called, “Out-of-state money seems to be skipping the IPS board race.”
Community activists have repeatedly made the point that major money from wealthy individuals and organizations from outside Indiana has poured into the IPS board election. These activists have suggested that this “outsider” money is being used to “buy” the election for the Stand for Children-Mind Trust supported candidates: Odle, Arnold, O’Connor, and Moore. (For more indepth info on the Mind Trust-Stand for Children operation, see http://kheprw.org/ips-research-group-presentation-on-the-mind-trust/)
This criticism has made Stand for Children-Mind Trust and their candidates defensive and nervous. Could they actually lose the election like the Stand for Children candidates in Nashville, Tennessee did because they were violating campaign finance laws by hiding the expenditure of school board campaign funds? (http://www.tennessean.com/story/news/politics/2016/08/04/stand-children-loses-big-nashville-state-races/88047446/)
In response, Indiana Chalkbeat’s article title indicates that out-of-state money is no longer a factor in the IPS election.
This is simply NOT true and is in fact a distortion.
Stand for Children, which claims to be a positive community organization, is both a 501C3 and a 501C4 organization. Having the 501C4 means Stand for Children, remember, that friendly community organization, can HIDE where money is coming in from and where it is being spent.
Because of the criticism of the Stand for Children-Mind Trust candidates receiving outside the state money for the 2014 election, Stand for Children has substantially decreased outside funds going directly to the candidates. Instead, it is passing the outsider money through its 501C4 so we the citizens of Indianapolis do not know what it is really up to.
While we cannot say exactly how much Stand for Children is spending on the 2016 election, we do have some reasonable estimates based on the number of mailings they are doing for each of their four candidate and what we know of the cost for such mailings.
In our best and most conservative estimates, we believe Stand for Children is spending around $600,000 on this election. Around $600,000!!!
Here’s how we arrived at this estimate. In 2012, Stand for Children did about 10 mailings for each candidate for four districts. Each of those mailings cost about $7,000, which means they spend about $70,000 on each of the three district level candidates for a total of $210,000. We assume they are doing similar for this election.
However, the citywide candidate mailings are much more expensive, somewhere around $30,000 each. This year they have done at least five completely different ones for Odle, and we expect at least one more prior to the election for a total of $180,000.
If we add all of this together, we get $390,000 just for the mailings. However, they are also producing yard signs, using other media, etc. so we conservatively estimate they are spending around $600,000, and it could be much more.
Remember in 2010, a citizen of Indianapolis could successfully run for the school board for $3-4,000. In addition, we doubt that ALL the candidates not supported by Stand for Children and the Mind Trust are spending collectively more than $50,000.
If Chalkbeat Indiana, the Recorder, or any local news outlet wants to prove us wrong, ask Stand for Children, that friendly community organization, to open its books to the public.
Indeed, we would suggest there is a general failure of the local news outlets—like the Star, the Recorder, Nuvo, the TV stations—to investigate this issue. It would seem to us that the local news outlets have a community responsibility to do this unless they are afraid of the powerful people and organizations backing Stand for Children and the Mind Trust, or the news outlets are being complicit in the hiding of the funding.
Local news outlets, don’t you feel a responsibility to push Stand for Children to open its books, to be transparent about where its money is coming from and how much is being spent on each of its four candidates?
Odle, Arnold, O’Connor, and Moore, what about you all? If you are as committed to IPS students as you say, let’s make the campaign financing public and transparent. Tell Stand for Children to open its books. If you don’t, your so-called commitment to the Indianapolis community and its children is highly questionable.
If no one pushes Stand for Children to open its books, it looks like a bought election. It looks like democracy is being destroyed by big money kept in the dark. Dark money for a bought election?
Jim Scheurich is a professor at the IUPUI School of Education. You can read his bio here.