Friday, Oct 17th was the deadline for candidates and Political Action Committees (PAC) to publicly release information on their finances in the 2014 elections. This includes candidates for school board elections in Indiana. But, the non-profit organization Stand for Children, which has endorsed three IPS School Board candidates and has flooded mailboxes throughout the IPS district with fancy color direct mail in support of those candidates refuses to release their campaign expenses and contributions.
In a live Afternoons with Amos interview, Stand for Children Indiana Executive Director Justin Ohlemiller was adamant that his organization doesn’t have to provide information on his organization’s campaign finances and spending to the public at this time. Ohlemiller says his organization is divided into a number of separate 501-C organizations under the IRS code. In the interview, Ohlemiller said Stand’s political activities are covered by their 501-C4 designation. The IRS uses that designation for Civic Leagues and Social Welfare Organizations, which are in some cases allowed to conduct political activities including support for or against candidates. But Stand for Children also has a Political Action Committee that is registered with the State of Indiana. And PAC are required to file campaign finance documents like candidates and other PAC’s. Ohlemiller was adamant that while eventually the public would know how much Stand raised and spent in support of IPS candidates, they were no under no obligation to disclose that information before the November 4 election. Ohlemiller claimed that would put his organization at a disadvantage. Ohlemiller’s refusal will continue to cause the role of Stand for Children to grow as an issue in the IPS school board race. As perceptions continue that Stand for Children is spending hundreds of thousands of dollars to elect their three candidates. Also in the Afternoons with Amos interview, Ohlemiller was asked his reaction to Governor Mike Pence’s decision not to apply for a Federal grant that could have brought up to $80 million for an expansion of quality preschool efforts in the State. Ohlemiller told Amos he was deeply disappointed in the Governor’s action and hoped to learn more of the reasons for it. Ohlemiller in the interview also stressed that Stand’s endorsement of IPS candidate Lanier Echols, Mary Ann Sullivan and Kelly Bentley was done in a fair and open process and that all the filed candidates for the IPS board were given opportunities to participate. And seven of the ten candidates did that. Ohlemiller also wouldn’t comment on the surprising news that one of Stand’s supported candidates, Lanier Echols, received 72.7% of her campaign contributions from persons outside Indiana, including money from Facebook COO and author of the best seller Lean In Sheryl Sandberg. out of state contributors. When asked why Facebook’s COO know or care about the IPS Schools, Ohlemiller really couldn’t answer. Click the Media Player to hear the Afternoons with Amos Interview with Stand for Children/Indiana Executive Director Justin Ohlemiller. Runs 24 Minutes ©2014 WTLC/Radio One.