All Children Matter (ACM), an organization founded by former Republican candidate for governor and longtime financer of the school voucher movement Dick DeVos, is being accused of laundering money and failing to properly register with the state of Wisconsin according to a complaint filed Friday with the Wisconsin Elections Board. The complaint alleges that a political action committee (PAC) run by All Children Matter out of Virginia failed to register in Wisconsin before contributing $35,000 to a PAC run by the organization in Wisconsin. Through the Virginia-based PAC All Children Matter is also accused of violating Wisconsin election laws that bar corporate contributions, with an entity in Wisconsin–Alliance for Choices in Education–contributing $90,000 in money that eventually made its way back to Wisconsin in the form of $35,000 spent on “issue ads” criticizing three Democratic legislative candidates. The complaint describes the transfer of money from Wisconsin to Virginia and then back to Wisconsin as “a scheme to launder campaign contributions” that hides who paid for the advertisements.
Across the United States, All Children Matter has intervened in a number of state legislative races, often drawing criticism for pumping large sums of out of state money into legislative races. During the 2004 election in Wisconsin, All Children Matter contributed over $500,000 to Republican candidates. All Children Matter campaigned heavily for Republican state legislators in Florida in during the 2004 election, but never disclosed the fact that it ultimately was formed to support school vouchers. In South Carolina in 2004, All Children Matter contributed several hundred thousand dollars to candidates who had pledged support for “school choice” while also funding direct mail advertisements in school board races. The organization also intervened in Utah in 2004, contributing the majority of the money used by a Utah-based organization pushing for school vouchers. In Missouri’s 2004 election, close to 95% of the candidates supported by All Children Matter were elected as a result of the organization’s $385,339 in contributions. While these contributions are legal in the aforementioned states, they are often disclosed only as “All Children Matter” and obscures the out-of-state sources for the majority of the money. In Missouri, a study revealed that less than 1% of the total contributions to the state’s ACM PAC came from Missouri residents. As a result, All Children Matter’s activities in Missouri and other states should be seen as an attempt by wealthy political activists–many like DeVos with long histories of supporting the religious and economic right–to subvert the democratic process.
All Children Matter was formed in the Spring of 2003 by Dick DeVos and his wife Betsy DeVos as an organization that would work to coordinate a national movement in support of political candidates that support government-funded vouchers for private schools. The organization–incorporated as a 527 organization that is consequently exempted from restrictions on the amount of donations it can give and being legally permitted to run advocacy or “issue” ads in elections–was formed in the wake of a 2002 Supreme Court ruling that upheld a voucher program in Ohio. The organization has been active in the “opportunity” states of Florida, Wisconsin, Texas, Colorado, and Virginia where DeVoses believe that the pro-voucher movement has a chance of succeeding. All Children Matter is one of many organizations around the country supported by Dick and Betsy DeVos, who have a long history of support the voucher movement. In Michigan, they bankrolled a failed 2000 ballot initiative that would have created a voucher program and run the Education Freedom Fund, an organization that awards scholarships for students to attend private schools as a means of building support for private schools and creating an ideological climate in which private schools are seen as “better” that public schools. In addition to running the Education Freedom Fund, they hold leadership positions in a number of organizations that are working to pass voucher programs around the country and to build support for the privatization of the public schools. Like their funding of organizations through their Dick and Betsy DeVos Foundation, their participation in the voucher movement is a fusion of religious right and free-market ideology. In addition to supporting vouchers, the couple has also funded charter schools as another means of advancing an agenda that seeks the privatization of the public education system.