State Journal

October 09, 2002 2 min read

Campaign Contributions

Thanks to $3 million donated by a parent of a child in a bilingual school, opponents of a Nov. 5 Colorado ballot initiative to curtail bilingual education are flooding the airwaves with messages opposing the proposal.

The parent, Pat Stryker of Fort Collins, Colo., gave the sum to English Plus, the coalition fighting the anti-bilingual-education proposal, in the hope that her daughter’s school—Harris Bilingual Immersion School in Fort Collins—would stay open, said Steve Welchert, a consultant for English Plus.

Like initiatives already passed in California and Arizona, the Colorado proposal, called Amendment 31, would replace most bilingual education classes with English-immersion classes. A similar initiative, Question 2, will also appear on the Massachusetts ballot on Nov. 5. (“Voters Courted in Two States On Bilingual Ed.,” Sept. 11, 2002.)

The campaign to support the Colorado proposal has been underwritten mostly by Ron K. Unz, a California businessman who has also financially backed the initiatives in the other three states. Meanwhile, in Massachusetts, Lincoln Tamayo, the chairman of English for the Children of Massachusetts, has filed a complaint with that state’s office of campaign and political finance charging that a donation to the group opposing the anti-bilingual-education proposal there “appears to violate federal tax and state campaign-finance laws.”

The contribution in question is $100,000 given by the Shefa Fund, a Philadelphia-based foundation with 501 (c) 3 status, to the Committee for Fairness to Children and Teachers, known as FACT, which opposes Question 2.

Mr. Tamayo says in his letter of complaint that such tax-deductible charitable organizations are prohibited from giving campaign contributions to political committees. He writes that under Massachusetts law, the report of the donation to the state should contain its direct source, which it does not.

Anthony Burke, a spokesman for the Internal Revenue Service, declined to comment on the donation, but said organizations with 501 (c) 3 status are permitted to lobby to influence legislation under certain conditions. One condition is that a substantial part of the organization’s activities can’t focus on lobbying.

Roger Rice, the director of Multicultural Education, Training, and Advocacy Inc., in Somerville, Mass., and a spokesman for FACT, said Mr. Tamayo’s complaint lacks merit. “We think it’s a harassment thing,” he said.

—Mary Ann Zehr