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Learning Curve

  • An F for transparency
    “Look at this shiny thing over here!” – Indiana House Speaker Brian Bosma, Oct. 14, 2014.

Campaign watch

The out-of-state campaign contributions continue to flow to Indiana Superintendent of Public Instruction Tony Bennett – the most recent from school choice supporters Roger Hertog and William Oberndorf.

In a large contribution report filed Monday, Bennett's re-election committee reported a $25,000 gift from Hertog, a New York City businessman associated with the conservative Manhattan Institute. He is a director of Alliance Capital Management Corp. and a founder of the neoconservative movement.

Hertog also has contributed $10,000 to Mike Pence's gubernatorial campaign and gave $25,000 to the American Federation for Children Action Fund, a school privatization and choice organization.

Oberndorf, a California resident, contributed $10,000 to Bennett's campaign. He is managing director of an investment firm, SPO Partners, and has reportedly given "tens of millions" of dollars to the school-choice movement. Oberndorf has cited Indiana's voucher law as the "gold standard" among voucher programs.

He is featured, along with Bennett, on the "Reformer" list of the Foundation for Excellence in Education, Jeb Bush's education reform group.

In 2010, Oberndorf gave $100,000 to the Terre Haute-based American Federation for Children PAC, which shares the same mailing address as the offices of attorney James Bopp, legal adviser on the Citizens United case. Bopp's clients include dozens of right-wing organizations, including the Traditional Values Coalition, National Organization for Marriage and Focus on the Family.

A bit of trivia for Fort Wayne readers: Former Mayor Paul Helmke defeated Bopp as student body president at Indiana University-Bloomington in 1969.

Karen Francisco, editorial page editor for The Journal Gazette, has been an Indiana journalist since 1981. She writes frequently about education for The Journal Gazette opinion pages and here, where she looks at the business, politics and science of learning as it relates to northeast Indiana, the state and the nation. She can be reached at 260-461-8206 or by e-mail at