Wealthy Vouchers Advocates Spend Big Money in Utah

The Salt Lake Tribune reports that “most of the cash” injected into Utah’s political system by Parents for Choice in Education “comes from big-business donors outside the state – including the Wal-Mart heirs and founders of multilevel marketing giant Amway.” Once a low-budget operation, the PAC received $255,000 in “seed money” from Amway heirs Dick and Betsy DeVos and their Michigan-based group, All Children Matter, and more high-profile donors followed.

All Children Matter Director Greg Brock says along with Florida, Louisiana, Ohio, Missouri, Virginia and Wisconsin, Utah is a key state for the school-choice movement – in part because a political action committee already existed here. Also, campaign money spreads further in small states.

“Our goal is to try to change the political climate in states where education reform is pretty active or being debated in a high-profile way,” Brock said. […]

The strategy is clear. So far, tax-credit advocates have targeted moderate, public-education friendly legislators, many of them schoolteachers. And the tactic already has worked: Lehi Rep. David Cox, a fifth-grade teacher, lost his bid for re-election at the Utah County Republican convention in April. His opponent, Ken Sumsion, got $3,545 from Parents for Choice and Utah Working Moms and Dads.

“That money made the biggest difference,” Cox said. “They were researching my record a year ago to find any bills they could twist to make me look bad. I couldn’t compete with the level of sophistication and expertise that was brought in.”

(Dick DeVos is running for governor of Michigan.)