Group of wealthy school choice backers donate in New Jersey

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TRENTON, N.J. (AP) — A loose-knit group that includes some of the country's wealthiest people has underwritten the political push for school choice around the country over the last two decades, including in New Jersey.

The Associated Press examined how much the relatively small group of wealthy contributors has given to state and federal candidates, political action committees and school choice-related state ballot initiatives.

A look at some of the highlights of their spending in New Jersey, among both Republicans and Democrats:

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REPUBLICANS

NEW JERSEY GOP: The biggest series of donations came in 2012 when the state Republican Party received $74,027, including about $39,000 from Dick and Betsy DeVos, who is now the U.S. education secretary and a leading figure in the school choice movement. Another $10,000 came from Dick DeVos' mother, Helen. Her husband, Richard DeVos, is the founder of Amway and owner of the Orlando Magic. The party also received about $25,000 from Howard Leach, a retired food company executive who served as U.S. ambassador to France from 2001-2005.

Gov. Chris Christie was pushing a plan for school vouchers in 2012. The measure passed in legislative committees, but never came up for a full vote.

CHRISTIE AND LT. GOV. KIM GUADAGNO: Their 2013 campaign received separate $3,800 donations from Microsoft founder Paul Allen, Home Depot co-founder Bernard Marcus and former Univision chief executive Jerry Perenchio.

REP. TOM MACARTHUR: The congressman received $4,000 from the DeVos family during his first run for the House in 2014. That includes $2,000 from Dick and Betsy DeVos and another $2,000 from Richard and Helen DeVos.

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DEMOCRATS

SEN. CORY BOOKER: The senator, who has been a supporter of charter schools, received $37,500 from a group of school choice supporters during his 2013 campaign. That included $10,000 from former New York Mayor Michael Bloomberg. He also received $5,200 from Donald and Doris Fisher, founders of The Gap, and $5,000 each from entrepreneur and philanthropist Eli Broad, and Netflix founder Reed Hastings.

REP. JOSH GOTTHEIMER: Gottheimer received $5,400 combined during his campaign last year from hedge fund manager and former Enron trader John Douglas Arnold and another $1,000 from Bradley Bloom, founder of Berkshires Partners.


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