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Who are you and what do you want?

Monday, Oct 18, 2010 - Posted by Rich Miller

* My weekly syndicated newspaper column is about a hot national issue - bigtime campaign money from outside groups

It’s not every day that a group almost nobody has ever heard of gives $175,000 to a single legislative candidate. But that’s just what happened on October 7th when Stand for Children Illinois PAC handed over that gigantic check to Republican Ryan Higgins, who is vying to replace retiring state Rep. Paul Froehlich (D-Schaumburg).

In fact, Stand for Children’s $175,000 check represents the largest single contribution to a legislative candidate - other than from a caucus leader, party organization or candidate loans to themselves - since contribution records were put online 16 years ago. It’s probably a good bet that the group’s contribution to Higgins is the single largest “outside” legislative campaign check in modern Illinois history.

Yet Stand for Children has received almost zero press coverage. Fox Chicago followed up on a story I wrote earlier this month, but that’s it, even though the group has contributed $650,000 to rank and file legislative candidates since October 4th.

Republicans had hoped to receive nearly all of the group’s prodigious contributions this fall, but the majority of its money went to six Democrats. Rep. Jehan Gordon (D-Peoria) received a $100,000 check. State Reps. Bob Flider, Mark Walker and Keith Farnham and Sen. Toi Hutchinson have all received $50,000 contributions, and House Democratic candidate Daniel Biss [received $10,000]. Three Republicans received money from the group.

Illinois House Speaker Michael Madigan met with the group after hearing what it was up to, said his spokesman. Madigan can be a very persuasive man.

Huge contributions have been the norm in Illinois for decades. Usually, though, when we see big checks run through the system we have a general idea what the group wants. So far, though, Stand for Children has not established any sort of public presence here. There have been no editorial board visits or public relations blitzes. Their campaign finance filings show that their money is coming from their parent organization, which doesn’t have to list its contributors. So we really don’t know who is actually bankrolling this group.

After several tries, the organization did send me a flier about how it intends to “Improve Illinois Public Schools.”

“Our vision is to dramatically increase improvement for all Illinois children by building a powerful, independent, statewide voice asking that we make what’s best for public school children the center of all education policy,” the flier states.

Um, OK, but what do they want? They say they want to “redefine” teacher tenure so that it is a “benefit that is earned and kept based on high expectations and student achievement.” Their website indicates that the group strongly backs testing to gauge achievement. And they appear to want to apply those test results to teachers. They also want to make sure that administrators and teachers have “exhausted every possible avenue during contract negotiations before resorting to a strike.” Details about how they would do that were not available.

“Certainly, any time you see a new group not from Illinois dropping significant dollar amounts into legislative races, it does raise some red flags,” said a spokesperson for the Illinois Federation of Teachers. “Where is their money coming from, who is funding them, what are their objectives? We’re certainly curious to see what their agenda is.”

While they don’t seem to be explicitly saying so, it looks like the group is taking advantage of a peculiar situation in Illinois politics.

The two teachers unions are furious at legislators for voting for a major pension reform bill, so many of those incumbents are not receiving the unions’ endorsements. Plus, the unions’ contributions, along with everybody else’s, will be capped at a much lower level starting January 1st, and that could hinder their influence.

The thinking is that Stand for Children is now filling a unique void created by the relative lack of teacher contributions.

But that theory doesn’t totally hold up. For instance, Rep. Farnham and Sen. Hutchinson were both endorsed by the IEA. And Rep. Flider has sponsored three bills making it easier for teachers to receive tenure more quickly.

However, if Speaker Madigan retains the majority and the group continues to, um, “stand” with his candidates and the unions refuse to step up, it’s possible that we could see a significant education reform push next year. Stay tuned. 

Stand for Children Illinois PAC submitted its preelection report Friday night, several hours after that column was written. Here are its major contributors besides its national headquarters…


  1. - Southtownie - Monday, Oct 18, 10 @ 7:46 am:

    Hutchinson has received $100,000 from Stand now Rich. Also, she got the endorsement of School Administrators (Teachers, Refomers, Administrators) - all this running against a kid on the school board. Screw Madigan, she seems like the persuasive one!

  2. - Another Anonymous - Monday, Oct 18, 10 @ 8:08 am:

    Rich - here is another in the line of “who are you and what do you want” that you should examine:

    The math on the We Ask America poll for Il-10 does not add up.

    The breakdown shows Dold up 13 among independents and 11 overall ( That simply does not work in a Dem district.

    If you take the Dem-GOP-Independent numbers they have posted and model them, the only way you get a top line of 50-39 is with an 80% weight to Independents.

    You should call and ask them what weightings they are using.

    Even a 33%-33%-33% weighting produces a top line of 49-42 while a 40% Dem, 30% GOP (which is about what Penn Schoen used) produces a top line of 46-46.

    This poll is clearly wrong.

  3. - wordslinger - Monday, Oct 18, 10 @ 8:14 am:

    Curious, subterranean group with major money. The Crowns and Madison Dearborn Partners obviously are big hitters.

    From the column, you might surmise their legislative agenda includes ending automatic tenure and banning strikes by public teachers.

    I wonder if there are any ties to Advance Illinois, the “blue-ribbon” Edgar/Bill Daley panel headed by Robin Steans?

  4. - Nearly Normal - Monday, Oct 18, 10 @ 8:28 am:

    I attended a couple of the IEA’s recommendation meetings for state reps and senators. Yes, the tenure vote was one of the major points but it was not the only one that was used to make a decision. One state rep (a Republican) who had been endorsed in the past was not recommended this time becuase of his stand on other issues such as the budget and school funding. I have always felt this individual’s support for educators was weak. He would happily give state funds to support private schools. The aggregate of his responses and our conversation with him caused him to lose his recommendation. That was concurred with by the IEA IPACE Exec Committee.

  5. - Nearly Normal - Monday, Oct 18, 10 @ 8:30 am:

    Should have said “because” not “becuase” in my previous post. I must proofread before sending.

  6. - dave - Monday, Oct 18, 10 @ 8:34 am:

    From the column, you might surmise their legislative agenda includes ending automatic tenure and banning strikes by public teachers.

    Or, in other words, getting rid of the teachers unions.

  7. - Nearly Normal - Monday, Oct 18, 10 @ 9:02 am:

    James Crown donated in the past to Democrats running for office. Holsizer gave $5,000 to Blago in his first race and $20,000 to McKenna in 2009. Finnegan has donated to both Ds and Rs (mostly Ds)and Ruhana gave $2,000 to Gene Schulter.

    Their donations to the Stand for Children PAC eclipses their other political donations.

    Interesting that only these are noted and they are from Chicago. Is this the start of another round of reforms aimed at CPS?

  8. - Quinn T. Sential - Monday, Oct 18, 10 @ 9:06 am:

    Another Anonymous,

    Have not had time yet to look at the polling question details you posed, but I was reviewing this over the weekend, and there could be some correlation to the information incorporated into the modeling of the poll you are questioning:

    Obama Faces New Opposition from America’s Jewish Voters

  9. - wordslinger - Monday, Oct 18, 10 @ 9:12 am:

    Dave, why’s that the case? There are public employee unions that are banned from striking in education and other fields. Arbitration is a tool used for impasses.

    Tenure, at the college level, is a tool to protect academic freedom and unfettered inquiry. Is that really necessary in curriculum-driven K-12?

  10. - Wumpus - Monday, Oct 18, 10 @ 9:41 am:

    That a lot of money! Does this look badly upon Michelle Mussman, Higgins’ opponent as she is a PTA board member? Still, $175k is major money for a state legislative race.

  11. - dave - Monday, Oct 18, 10 @ 9:45 am:

    Tenure, at the college level, is a tool to protect academic freedom and unfettered inquiry. Is that really necessary in curriculum-driven K-12?


  12. - Another Anonymous - Monday, Oct 18, 10 @ 9:48 am:

    Quinn - my point is that it simply does not add up. It is not mathematically correct given the data they present.

    The data by category can not add up to a 50-39 Dold lead under any reasonable assumption.

    It isn’t that hard. Just take one-third of Dem, GOP, and Independent percentage for Dold and Seals. The gives a 49-42 result.

    To get to 50.5 to 39.0 you have to make ridiculous assumptions. They need to explain how the total result relates to the breakdowns.

    The get an 11 point lead in a Dem leaning district, a Rep needs to take about about a 30 point lead among independents.

    The Penn poll had Seals leading by 12 among independents.

    I’m only talking math here.

  13. - Responsa - Monday, Oct 18, 10 @ 10:22 am:

    ==The breakdown shows Dold up 13 among independents and 11 overall ( That simply does not work in a Dem district==

    Voters in the 10th for the last presidential election went solidly for Obama. Kirk, an R. won reelection as has every Republican running for congress from the 10th back to John Porter.

    Look, I don’t pretend to know how this race for congress is going to shake out. But I do know this: 1.It is a very complex district (what actually happens when districts are NOT gerrymandered), and 2. Seals has been rejected by the voters of this district twice already (including, and especially, in the Obama 2008 wave.

    Anyone pronouncing this district a “Dem district” does not show a full understanding of the situation either historically or at present.

  14. - wordslinger - Monday, Oct 18, 10 @ 10:28 am:


    Dave, don’t hide your light under a bushel, son, lol. Expand.

    I have family and friends who have tenure in elementary, middle and high schools. Academic freedom isn’t the issue. It’s seniority. Those who don’t have it get layed off first.

  15. - Another Anonymous - Monday, Oct 18, 10 @ 10:31 am:

    Responsa - OK, but try doing the MATH.

    Based on the posted numbers of Seals getting 5.87% of the GOP vote, 82.55% of the Dem vote, and 37.75% of the independent vote, try to find any percentage contributions that result in the stated 39.02% the total vote.

    Just try it.

    If you assign 33% to each, Seals gets 42%. If you put 40% for Dems and GOP, Seals is at 43%.

    This is a firm which uses two decimal points to signify precision, and the numbers DO NOT ADD UP.

    Based on the data they present:
    there is simply no way to add up to the totals and to have Seals at 39%.

    Spreadsheets do not lie.

    This destroys the credibility of the poll (and the firm, which also put out a poll showing Walsh ahead of Bean in the eighth).

    Rich should call and ask how they weighted that poll for each subset presented.

  16. - Siriusly - Monday, Oct 18, 10 @ 10:33 am:

    Wordslinger. Does that mean that’s the correct policy? Shouldn’t we lay off teachers who are the poorest performing first? Why does seniority matter when we’re talking about the education of our children?

    I’m not saying that we need to end tenure, but it sure makes sense to me that while we’re looking to improve our schools we also need to rework some of the workplace laws that govern public education.

    School boards have no bargaining authority. How can you negotiate anything when the other side has all the power. Answer is you can’t.

  17. - wordslinger - Monday, Oct 18, 10 @ 10:37 am:

    Siriusly, read previous posts. I’m not defending tenure for K-12 teachers.

  18. - Siriusly - Monday, Oct 18, 10 @ 10:45 am:

    I apologize, I see we’re asking similar questions here.

    In the context of Rich’s column. I agree that Stand for Children must have a clear agenda someplace. Clearly those donors and perhaps those PAC money recipients know what they want in more detail. I suspect as Rich said that we’re all about to find out.

    If they plan to challenge the IEA and IFT on their stranglehold on education workplace rules in the state, I welcome them.

  19. - the Patriot - Monday, Oct 18, 10 @ 11:02 am:

    ===clear agenda someplace===

    It is somewhat ironic that unions are complaining about groups having a clear agenda. The Unions tell teachers we are against merit based pay, but send members dues to a Governor and President who helped make it law and will elilimnate teacher tenure as soon as possible. Don’t complain about a clear agenda when you mislead your own members about yours.

  20. - cover - Monday, Oct 18, 10 @ 11:11 am:

    Interesting to see Mr. Hulsizer on this list. He could have held on to that $100K to spend later (once his big acquisition is complete) on a Phoenix Coyotes minor-leaguer.

  21. - So Blue Democrat - Monday, Oct 18, 10 @ 12:09 pm:

    Stand For Children has no interest in improving education or advocating for any interest that benefits children. It is a corporate PAC that only wants to destroy the unions, and public pension systems. Over a decade ago, they did so in the private sector, and now they want to do so in the public sector.

    Individuals donating to this PAC and other related PACs retire with multi-million-dollar pensions, while the workers who created their wealth will have very little in their retirement years.

    Corporate greed and wall street destroys the economy. It was not the unions.

  22. - Gregg Durham - We Ask America Polls - Monday, Oct 18, 10 @ 12:18 pm:

    Re: Mistake in IL-10 poll:

    As a number of people have pointed out, we had a typo in the crosstabs of this poll. It was corrected early this morning. We apologize for the confusion.

  23. - Bill - Monday, Oct 18, 10 @ 12:31 pm:

    These guys did not get to be multi-millionaires by being concerned about the common good. Some of them were born rich and the others have always had their own self interests at heart. They hate it when the people who actually do the work reap even just a little of the benefit. They see a strong middle class as a disadvantage to them. All they want is to pay less of their riches in taxes. This is an investment for them that they hope will pay off. Anyone who has to work for a living should be against everything this group is for.

  24. - Another Anonymous - Monday, Oct 18, 10 @ 12:32 pm:

    Mr Durham: The typo does not explain away my question.

    What weightings did you use to come up with the final results?

    I do not see how you can have a total line for Seals at 5.87% GOP, 82.55% Dem, and 37.65% Independent and come up with just 39.02%.

    It is a simple question every polling group should be able to answer -

    What was your GOP, Dem, and Independent weightings?

    I am not asking about the typo, which was obvious.

    The numbers simply DO NOT ADD UP. Please answer the simple question so that the math can be determined.

  25. - Another Anonymous - Monday, Oct 18, 10 @ 12:42 pm:

    Here is how a spreadsheet shows that 34% Dem, 33% GOP and 33% Independent gives a top line of 49-42. For all you playing along at home, set up a spreadsheet and plug in your own numbers.

    I would love to see someone make it work to 50-39.

    GOP % DEM % IND % Total
    Dold 86.22 0.33 12.08 0.34 50.5 0.33 49.2248
    Seals 5.87 0.33 82.55 0.34 37.75 0.33 42.4616
    Unsure 7.92 0.33 5.37 0.34 11.75 0.33 8.3169
    100.01 100 100 100.0033

    Their numbers just don’t add up.

  26. - ANON - Monday, Oct 18, 10 @ 1:18 pm:

    I don’t see the big deal about supposed “evil anonymous ads”. This country was built in part upon anonymous political protest and speech, including arguably the most important and influential “ads”: The Federalist Papers.

  27. - Rich Miller - Monday, Oct 18, 10 @ 1:36 pm:

    ===most important and influential “ads”: The Federalist Papers. ===

    Those weren’t ads. C’mon. That’s just totally silly.

  28. - titan - Monday, Oct 18, 10 @ 1:41 pm:

    another anonymous

    A 39 R / 33 D / 26 I spread gives you a 50 to 39 total. I suspect there are a couple/few other ways to get that.

    Given the demographics of teh dicstrict, the above might not be too out of line (mostly higher income suburbs, with one lower income area)

  29. - Another Anonymous - Monday, Oct 18, 10 @ 1:44 pm:

    Titan - yes, it gives you 50 - 39, but then it also gives you just 7.9% for undecided.

    So it does not a solution for their totals. The only thing that actually works is 10% GOP, 10% Dem and 80% undecided.

    Now, maybe they had another typo in the total undecided. But that would be very sloppy.

    Also, a 39-33 GOP edge in the tenth is a lot different than most pollsters use.

  30. - Another Anonymous - Monday, Oct 18, 10 @ 1:48 pm:

    All they have to do is answer the question as to their weightings (or check their work). Incidentally, Cook rates the district D +6.

  31. - titan - Monday, Oct 18, 10 @ 1:49 pm:

    Opps, never mind - that one didn’t add up to 100%

    You got me, I don’t know what their spreads were.

  32. - Another Anonymous - Monday, Oct 18, 10 @ 1:59 pm:

    Titan - I believe there is only the one answer of 10-10-80, which makes no sense. This can be seen by looking at the “unsure” line. The total unsure % is way above both the Dem and GOP. That means the Independents are by far the heaviest influence.

    There is either something seriously wrong with this poll or they are not playing straight.

    A respected pollster or journalist needs to check on them.

  33. - Quinn T. Sential - Monday, Oct 18, 10 @ 2:08 pm:

    Another Anonymous,

    I am too busy today to spend too much time on running an algebraic equation, but I will try to look at it more carefully tonight when I have some time.

    The point that I was trying to make by included in the PJM article above, is that this may be influencing their modeling with respect to turn out; or despite whether or not Jewish voters turnout, who they might vote for, based on the public sentiment expressed in the article and the traditional Jewish voting patterns in the district.

    That is all.

  34. - ANON - Monday, Oct 18, 10 @ 2:41 pm:

    ==Those weren’t ads==

    They were anonymous published articles distributed to gan support for each respective groups positions for or against ratification. At a base level no different than issue advocacy groups buying ad space in a newspaper or distributing pamphlets on the street ot door to door.

  35. - Anonymous - Monday, Oct 18, 10 @ 2:43 pm:

    The IL 10 poll is NOT weighted by party ID. Self identified party ID is an attitude that changes over time.

    As someone else pointed out this district would be difficult to weight based party ID. The voters overwhelmingly went for Obama, but Kerry won it by 5% and Gore only won it by 4%. It has also been represented by a republican in congress since 1980.

    Not to be ignored is the fact that Kirk is on the ballot and will likely win this portion of the state, which will likely give Dold a boost. Another issue is that Seals has now lost in this CD twice.

  36. - Another Anonymous - Monday, Oct 18, 10 @ 2:53 pm:

    Even if it is not intentionally weighted by ID, there have to be relative factors. It still has to add up. It does not - unless you assume 80% of the respondents identified themselves as independent. Perhaps that is what they did as it was a robopoll.

    But all the top, serious polsters take data and then weight it.

    And, the final of 50-39-11 still has to come from somewhere. Those final numbers define a percentage from the columns they come from, producing a wieght.

    I went back and looked at their previous polls, and none of the other polls had this mathematical problem. Those all produced reasonable weightings such as in the Hare race, where Dem responses outnumbers GOP.

  37. - Another Anonymous - Monday, Oct 18, 10 @ 2:59 pm:

    After all - they say that precisely 86.2% of GOP respondents support Dold. That means there is a specific number of GOP rspondents. Take that, divide by the total, and you have the “weighting”. They broke it out by GOP and DEM, so they must have asked, and they must have the totals for each category.

  38. - wordslinger - Monday, Oct 18, 10 @ 3:23 pm:

    The Anon on The Federalist Papers — are you serious, dude?

    You don’t see a difference between 30 second TV spots and The Federalist Papers?

    Besides the obvious, everyone in Philly knew who the authors were of The Federalist Papers, because they were the actual guys who were writing The Constitution.

    Their writings were secret because the whole convention was exceeding the authority granted to it by its respective state legislatures, which was to fine tune the Articles of Confederation.

  39. - Chris Wieneke - Monday, Oct 18, 10 @ 4:01 pm:

    Another Anonymous, the total column of the poll results represent all answers to the poll. The breakouts by party only include those that answered all of the questions. As you know, fewer people answer the last question on automated polls. For clarity purposes, that should, and will be noted if “raw” results like this be published again. The results for those that answered all questions are:

    Dold – 51.20%
    Seals – 40.14%
    Unsure – 8.66%

    The percentages for party ID are:
    R – 32.82%
    D – 28.68%
    I – 38.50%

    I hope that this clears up the confusion.

  40. - Another Anonymous - Monday, Oct 18, 10 @ 4:48 pm:

    There now - was that so hard?

    And that partly explains why this poll is so different than the Penn Shoen poll just a couple of days earlier.

    That poll appears to have had about 40% for Dems and 33% for GOP (by my rough estimate). That is an 11 point difference in party ID between the two polls.

    The main difference though, is that Penn had Seals ahead 42-33 for independents, We Ask has it 51-38 for Dold. Big difference.

    Whoever wins the independents will indeed win this race.

  41. - VanillaMan - Monday, Oct 18, 10 @ 9:12 pm:

    If Seal pulls this off, he will be a rarity. So, he shouldn’t believe any polls showing him leading. If he wants to win this time, I mean.

Sorry, comments for this post are now closed.

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