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Friday, March 27, 2009

They Closed the Curtains Too Soon

by folkbum

Earlier this week, I wondered about Advocates for Student Achievement, a seemingly pro-privatization group that wants to influence the election of members of the Milwaukee Public Schools board. Another blogger, going by the monicker of "sixandsevens," has been tracking the group, too, at dKos and OWN.

One thing this person caught--and, honestly, I have no idea who s/he may be--is that ASA and its members were on the Yahoo! together in an open email listserv. Well, open in the sense that anyone could stroll through and read their emails to each other, not that anyone could just chime in.

Sadly, this is what's left of that group:
I did get to spend some time poking around in the archives before they shut off the pipeline, and there was some good stuff. For example, I got a good sense of who the major players were, including ASA honcho Anne Curley (she needs to fix her website), current MPS board member Bruce Thompson, exurban consultant Wendell Willis, failed 2005 candidate Kevin Ronnie, aborted 2009 candidate Lena Stephenson, and a Steve Adams.

Unfortunately, I couldn't mine as much as this sixandsevens person, but I wanted to point out a couple of things I found interesting. One is this email about the most recent poll done by the group. Apparently, after the negative publicity surrounding the first push-poll in the Peter Blewett-ReDonna Rodgers campaign, the pollster threw a fit, and ASA wants its money back:
From: Anne Curley [mailto:anne@...]
Sent: Tuesday, February 24, 2009 9:26 PM
To: KOCZELA, Steven
Subject: MPS landscape poll project outcome

Steve – It’s been more than three weeks since we released the results of the poll conducted for Advocates for Student Achievement by Brilliant Corners.

We have had not one iota of publicity, due to the concerns raised by our critics regarding the methodology employed by Brilliant Corners and our inability to counter that criticism effectively since we’re not professional pollsters.

In addition, we have raised virtually no financial support as a result of the poll, which I attribute to our lack of credentials in presenting the results and the aforementioned credibility issues.

In short, while we certainly have gained some value from the insights produced by the poll, we received none of the added value you projected, in terms of publicity and fundraising, because Brilliant Corners backed out of its commitment to present its findings and essentially walked away from its own work.

In light of this outcome, I am writing to request a partial refund of the $11,900 paid by ASA to Brilliant Corners. After discussing this with other members of the Executive Committee, I’ve been instructed to ask for a minimum of a 25% rebate, i.e., at least $2,975.

Needless to say, we are extremely disappointed in the outcome of our decision to employ Brilliant Corners. This is especially true in light of the fact that every member of our Executive Committee except for me appears to have voted for President Obama. To have been mischaracterized as a right-wing organization is galling enough. To have been short-changed by a vendor to whom we have paid what amounts to a small fortune, relative to our tiny operating budget, because of this politically motivated lie is clear cause for action.

Let me know if you prefer that I address this request to Cornell, or submit it in a letter. Thanks in advance for pursuing a resolution, Steve.



Anne Curley [contact info redacted]
I have no idea if they ever got their refund.

This little bit was much more disturbing to me:
FYI, here's ReDonna's campaign platform document
Sun Feb 22, 2009 3:06 pm

Look forward to seeing most of you tomorrow at 7:45 at Highland Park Pies. In the meantime, thought you might want to see the final version (at least for now) of ReDonna’s platform. This piece is being used with potential donors and others who want a better understanding of where she’s coming from.

Anne Curley [contact info redacted]
Which was followed closely by this one:
Correction to ReDonna's platform overview
Sun Feb 22, 2009 4:00 pm

Attached is a revised document. Only change is that it includes the proper disclaimer at the back.

Anne Curley [contact info redacted]
Sadly, even before the group was disappeared, the attachments to the emails were not public, so I have no idea what "disclaimer" a document prepared and distributed by a registered PAC purporting to be a candidate's platform would actually look like. I know what disclaimers are supposed to look like from campaigns, but not what might be going on here.

And there was lots more, including talk about the candidate training and roundtables the group offered, strategy they used, and a lot of talk about which reporters might be most manipulable to get their version of events out to the public. It is not wrong that such a group exists, or that they used Yahoo! to chat amongst themselves. It was, for the brief moment it lasted, though, an interesting glimpse into the motivations and machinations of this group.

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