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Big contribution, seemingly a record-breaker, fueled Williams’ money haul

Big contribution, seemingly a record-breaker, fueled Williams’ money haul

Three-quarters of a million dollars.

That’s how much a political action committee that advocates for school choice gave Democrat Anthony Williams on March 26, helping to buy him a seat at the table in an expensive race for governor. The $750,000 contribution from Democrats for Education Reform appears to be the biggest single campaign contribution in Pennsylvania history; political operatives on both sides of the aisle this week couldn’t think of one that even comes close.

It was huge donations that turned Williams from a late-to-the-game candidate in January to one of the only Democrats who will be able to mount a significant advertising push in April, according to newly-filed campaign finance data. Of the more than $1.7 million Williams’ campaign raised since January, $1.6 million of it effectively came from only three sources.

In addition to the $750,000 from Democrats for Education Reform, the Philadelphia state Senator also got $250,000 from Students First PAC, another pro-school choice group. And another $600,000 came from two PACs controlled by Williams himself. The strong financial support from school choice advocates aligns Williams with the issue more visibly and more directly than ever before during his short campaign. Though some have focused on his support for charter school vouchers, Williams has consistently said he supports “the full menu” of education choices.

In an interview with pa2010.com Wednesday morning, Williams said his largest contributors should expect no more or less from him than his smallest individual donors. He said financial support from the school choice community, whose views he has shared for years, would not impact his policies as governor.

“I’m appreciative of the fact that that community has stepped up early,” he said. “But I have small donors, I have mid-size donors. No, they don’t give the same amount, but they mean just as much to me.”

Asked what voters should take away from the fact that so much of his campaign is funded by a single-issue constituency, Williams said: “I would expect them to take out of it what they take out of it when Tom Corbett gets money from Marcellus Shale companies, or when Dan Onorato gets money from teachers’ unions.”

And while Williams’ campaign manager is president of a non-profit Philadelphia charter school, he said any implication that his election would benefit her personally was a non-issue. A spokeswoman said he doesn’t have an ownership stake in the school named after his late father, the Hardy Williams Academy.

“She’s president of a charter school that exists under the current law, and I’m not proposing any change in charter school policy,” Williams said. “If people are looking at who benefits, people should look at how I support the full menu of education.”

Williams’ gubernatorial campaign benefited from two separate $50,000 donations from his state Senate campaign, as well as a $500,000 contribution from the Make a Difference PAC, which he also controls. He received $5,000 from state Representative Dwight Evans’ PAC; Evans endorsed his in March.

Williams also netted some large individual contributions, including $10,000 from his former chief of staff and current campaign manager, Dawn Chavous. Former state Senator Connie Williams, who has also endorsed Williams, kicked in $5,000. And Arthur Makadon, the Ballard Spahr chairman and longtime confidante to Ed Rendell, gave Williams $1,000.

Even though he only entered the race earlier this year, Williams still made some big early expenditures, according to his campaign finance report. He spent over $30,000 on high-level campaign staffers and consultants, over $45,000 on direct mail and other voter contact efforts, and over $75,000 on polling.

“I’m glad that we’re going to be competitive,” Williams said, “and I’m glad that we’re going to be able to talk about the full scope of issues that effects Pennsylvania.”

Click here to view Williams’ campaign finance report.

April 7, 2010 at 4:45 pm

--Dan Hirschhorn

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comments [7] | post a comment

  1. Brett

    Apr 7th, 2010

    That’s a lot of ice cream bars!

  2. Finaly a Guy who speaks for the People

    Apr 8th, 2010

    Its Time to take Our Schools back from the Teachers Unions that Hold everyone back GO TONY GO

  3. Terra Firma

    Apr 8th, 2010

    IBEW Local 98 gave this guy $100K; that’s all you need to know about him.

  4. Joe in Wynnewood

    Apr 8th, 2010

    Oh yes, blame the teachers unions, cause they pick the administration, the principals and pretty much run the schools.

    School “choice” is largely about defunding public education and increasing further still the huge gap between those who can afford to send their kids to private school – who would get subsidies on top of the tax breaks they’ve already enjoyed – and those who a couple or three grand voucher doesn’t come close to making private school affordable.

    As for charters, there are good charters and lousy charters, just like there are good and bad regular schools.

    I’ll happily wager a couple of c-notes that the quality of the top administrator if not the single factor that most closely correlates to a school’s success it is at least in the top 3 in every case (with $ spent per pupil as another).

    I will wager a couple more than in any school where the $/pupil is well below average and the school is performing well above average they’ve got a great principal.

  5. TB

    Apr 9th, 2010

    The people of Pennsylvania already pay too much for a failed system, failed teachers, and failed students. They should not be saddled with the additional financial burden of funding school vouchers. Who says that students that would qualify for school vouchers would pass an entrance exam for the private school they’d wish to attend?

  6. David

    Apr 14th, 2010

    So, $950k from groups advocating for School Choice? Senator Williams is great, but who is advising these groups to give so much money to one candidate who faces an uphill battle in both the primary and general elections? Was it with the hope that if Williams does not win the governorship he can still help in the legislature? If so, while Williams is an exceptional Senator, it’s hard for any one legislator to singlehandedly pass legislation, especially when they are in the minority.
    If I was their consultant I would have advised them to spread that $950k throughout the full general assembly and also to use some of the funds for normal advocacy (meetings, correspondence, press, etc). Plus, now that these groups and individuals are named they will be pressured by potential political allies to come up with significant donations and if they don’t their issue potentially is hurt. I feel that by giving this much money to just one candidate they have hurt school choice efforts in PA instead of helping.

    If they have one, they should fire their lobbyist/political consultant(s) and/or anyone else that gave them advice to give so much money to just one individual campaign.

  7. tom

    Apr 16th, 2010

    The largest single waste of tax dollars in this state goes to the Public School system, and the Philadelphia SD gets Billions in aid, and the result? A 50% dropout rate! Here’s another mind boggling stat for all of the anti school choice nuts out there. It cost 13K to educate a Public School student in Pa, the median price for Private School is 4K. What a bang for your buck the Public School system is. Incredibly, most of our tax dollars never hit the classroom where it’s needed the most! 2/3 of it goes to teachers salaries and benefits! A voucher system or education tax credit would save the state billions while improving education. Wait until the Public School Pension crisis bill is due-2 billion in benefits which is going to cost the average family 1300.00 in 2 years, 1900.00 by 2019!

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