McVaney ally gives $6K to hopefuls
At least another $8,182.98 rolled into campaign coffers for District 51 candidates between Oct. 11 and Oct. 27, according to campaign finance reports filed Friday.
Four thousand of those dollars were donated by Ralph Nagel, the Denver-area artist and president of investment company Top Rock Liquidity Fund who gave $2,000 each to District 51 candidates John Sluder and Pat Kanda. C. Edward McVaney, one of six co-founders with Nagel of ACE Scholarships, a Denver-based nonprofit that provides low-income students with partial scholarships to attend private schools, donated $5,000 apiece this fall to Kanda, Sluder and District 51 candidate Mike Lowenstein.
Nagel and McVaney each donated $10,000 apiece to three Douglas County School Board candidates in 2011, making them the two largest donors to those campaigns two years ago. The two are now the two largest single donors to Kanda, Lowenstein and Sluder’s campaigns, donating a combined $19,000 to the candidates. Sluder has raised an additional $1,108 from local donors and Kanda has raised $344 locally. Lowenstein’s campaign report was not filed by 6 p.m. Friday.
Nagel did not return a call to his office Friday.
Fellow District 51 candidates Greg Mikolai, Tom Parrish and John Williams raised less than $4,000 combined during the latest campaign finance report period but still have more money than the other three candidates. Parrish has raised more than $12,000 while Williams has collected just over $11,000. Mikolai has collected $9,700.
All but $4,041 of the more than $33,000 collected by Williams, Parrish and Mikolai came from local sources, although opponents have questioned whether the $6,000 District 51 teachers union Mesa Valley Education Association donated to Mikolai and Parrish and in-kind donations of campaign materials will influence school board negotiations with the association.
Mikolai said his four-year record of negotiations with MVEA has included teacher pay cuts and a compromise on salary scale increases for additional educational attainment that gave teachers 80 percent of what they would otherwise get for those increases.
“If it’s a choice between some rich billionaire from the Front Range who it seems is trying to influence school boards across Colorado or 900 teachers who live here and work here, I guess I’ll go with the 900 teachers,” Mikolai said. “They aren’t contributing to me because I can be bought. They’re contributing to me because I’m willing to listen.”
Kanda and Sluder, who did not return calls Friday afternoon, have said in the past they do not believe out-of-county donations come with strings attached and that they believe McVaney’s donation came because he supports their current views. Mikolai said believing that McVaney and Nagel do not expect a return on investment is “a naive outlook.”
Williams said he suspects McVaney and Nagel are interested in school districts across Colorado endorsing privatization in schools or a voucher system similar to the one adopted in March 2011 by the Douglas County School Board. Kanda, Lowenstein and Sluder have all said they are undecided on vouchers, with Sluder adding his focus is on charter, not private, schools and Kanda saying he is not convinced vouchers are right for this community.