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 Election’s 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.
You can find Diane Ravitch’s blog post here: Rhee’s Husband Fined for Ethics Violation