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AFT’s AstroTurf Adventure Union Spent $345k on OPSB Races, But Zero In NOLA

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An analysis of campaign finance records reveals that the American Federation of Teachers (AFT) spent far more on November’s Orleans Parish School Board (OPSB) elections than previously reported.

According to filings with the Louisiana Board of Ethics, Orleans Future PAC, a political action committee launched by AFT in late-September of last year, spent nearly $345,000 in the seven weeks leading up to Election Day.

Contributor City State Date Amount
AMERICAN FEDERATION OF TEACHERS Washington DC 9/30/16 $144,000.00
AMERICAN FEDERATION OF TEACHERS Washington DC 10/20/16 $225,483.00
Holly Giarraputo (AFT’s campaign finance compliance consultant) Missoula MT 9/12/16 $150.00

 
Although the committee officially backed three school board candidates, including incumbents Nolan Marshall and Leslie Ellison, it appeared that the bulk of their efforts focused on the race in District 6, where political newcomer David Alvarez was running to unseat Woody Koppel, who has backed the city’s school reform efforts during his tenure on the board.

Leslie Ellison, David Alvarez, and Nolan Marshall.

As previously noted, Orleans Future PAC supported Alvarez’s bid with direct mail and digital advertising, but their campaign reports also show that AFT paid for door-to-door canvassing as well. Nevertheless, in spite of AFT’s well-financed efforts, Koppel went on to defeat Alvarez with 53% of the vote.

However, the most interesting revelation from Orleans Future PAC’s disclosures isn’t how much much AFT spent, but how they spent it. With the exception of Orleans Future PAC’s $100 registration fee to the Board of Ethics, every dollar AFT spent on New Orleans’ school board elections went to out-of-state consultants and media firms.

NAME CITY STATE PURPOSE DATE AMOUNT
GBI STRATEGIES, LLC Cordova TN Payroll expenses-canvassing 10/3/16 $39,000.00
HART RESEARCH ASSOCIATES WASHINGTON DC Polling 10/7/16 $37,500.00
GBI STRATEGIES, LLC Cordova TN Payroll expenses 10/27/16 $20,000.00
GBI STRATEGIES, LLC Cordova TN Payroll expenses 10/21/16 $39,000.00
GBI STRATEGIES, LLC Cordova TN Digital advertising 11/3/16 $45,000.00
TERRIS, BARNES & WALTERS San Francisco CA Printing-Canvassing materials 11/3/16 $5,984.75
TERRIS, BARNES & WALTERS San Francisco CA Printing-Direct mail 10/23/16 $136,700.57
LOUISIANA BOARD OF ETHICS Baton Rouge LA Registration Fee 9/12/16 $100.00
CAMPAIGN COMPLIANCE, INC. MIssoula MT Accounting fee 10/7/16 $1,075.47
FIRST INTERSTATE BANK Missoula MT Bank fee 10/3/16 $25.00
CAMPAIGN COMPLIANCE, INC. MIssoula MT Accounting fee 11/4/16 $1,080.45
FIRST INTERSTATE BANK Missoula MT Bank fee 10/20/16 $10.00
FIRST INTERSTATE BANK Missoula MT Bank fee 10/21/16 $25.00
FIRST INTERSTATE BANK Missoula MT Bank fee 10/25/16 $25.00
FIRST INTERSTATE BANK Missoula MT Bank fee 10/28/16 $25.00
FIRST INTERSTATE BANK Missoula MT Bank fee 11/4/16 $25.00
FREESTONE COMMUNICATIONS St. Louis MO Political consultant/travel 11/4/16 $16,418.09
AMERICAN FEDERATION OF TEACHERS Washington DC Refund 12/1/16 $25,638.67
CAMPAIGN COMPLIANCE, INC. MIssoula MT Accounting fee 12/1/16 $2,000.00

Although AFT’s last-minute involvement in the OPSB races caught many political observers by surprise, recent developments suggest it’s part of a broader push by the union to reestablish itself in New Orleans. AFT’s F.Y. 2015 and F.Y. 2016 reports to the U.S. Department of Labor show that the union has also steered more than $1.1 million towards organizing efforts in New Orleans since 2014.

Given the outcome of the recent OPSB elections and the mixed results AFT has had with organizing, it certainly doesn’t seem like money well spent.

Pete became involved in education reform as a 2002 Teach For America corps member in New Orleans Public Schools and has worked in various capacities at Teach For America, KIPP, TNTP, and the Recovery School District. As a consultant, he developed teacher evaluation systems and served as a strategic advisor to school district leaders in Cleveland, Nashville, Chattanooga, and Jefferson Parish, Louisiana. He now writes about education policy and politics and lives in New Orleans.

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Brian Beabout
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Just awful when out of state forces sway our #nolaed elections isn’t it? google.com/amp/www.nola.c… @petercook


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