School Board Candidates Defend PAC Endorsement

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Monday, November 3, 2014, 6:06 pm
Alice Dreger

Two school board candidates who have been endorsed by the PAC “Neighborhoods 1st” are objecting to criticisms of this relationship by a third candidate not endorsed by the PAC.

As previously reported in ELi, candidate Joe Borgstrom’s issue about the PAC is that “PACs are a big part of what’s wrong with our political system today. . . . PACs are for organizations who want to aggregate money and dispense it in large chunks without a whole lot of transparency as to who is making the decisions to back what.” Borgstrom was not endorsed by the PAC.

Yasmina Bouraoui, who is endorsed by the PAC, objects to the implication. She told me, “The fact that a PAC of concerned citizens pools campaign contributions from members and donates those funds to support candidates is part of the democratic process. This is very different than a PAC supported by corporate entities.”

Candidate for reelection Nell Kuhnmuench, also endorsed by the PAC, agrees that there is no problem with the endorsement. She says, “A political action committee is free to solicit funds just as any candidates may solicit funds and report donors and expenditures in accordance with State law.” She adds, “Neighborhood 1st appears to be a group of concerned citizens who have contributed funds to lawfully spread the word about who they endorse. I am not a part of their decision-making process.”

As I previously reported, I have tired to learn more about the decision-making process of Neighborhoods 1st but have been somewhat thwarted. Don Power and Jim Anderson, who lead the PAC, have not been willing to explain exactly who in the PAC chose the four candidates or how, except to say the eight candidates were not all interviewed. Power has also referred to the PAC working with “a couple of retired bankers” but will not disclose the names of these retired bankers as he has the names of other members of what has alternately been called the executive board and “people who participate a lot.”

Kuhnmuench also objects to the characterization of the four endorsed candidates as “a slate.” She says, “We did not choose to run together, we do not have a common platform, we do share concern about how the school board has made decisions in the past. None of us has used the word ‘slate’ or presented ourselves as a slate or are running as a slate.” The group has not created shared literature or campaign webpages.

The four appear together on literature organized and paid for by Neighborhoods 1st. Both Kuhnmuench and Bouraoui say they did not seek the group’s endorsement. But, Kuhnmuench says, “the endorsement of a political action committee is often valued because such committees carefully evaluate candidates based on truth, deliberation, consideration of other candidates and factual information.”

Neighborhoods 1st has offered no further explanation of who in the group evaluated the candidates and/or deliberated on the question of whom to endorse. I have been unable to find out further information about the PAC’s process from those associated with it.

Kuhnmuench told me, “There is no law prohibiting nor is there any inappropriateness for an independent political action committee being formed to dispense funds as it chooses on an election matter.” She added that, “Additionally, it should be noted that no candidate has received funds from a PAC in this campaign, contrary to what [Borgstrom] is implying. Funds were spent in support of candidates [through mailed advertisements, but no candidate has received or reported funds received from a PAC.”

To read answers from ELi's questions to school board candidates, click here. The election is tomorrow, Tuesday, November 4. © 2013-2020 East Lansing Info