Does ‘King David’ Own the Senate, Too?

For Immediate Release: May 31, 2011

Contact: Dale Butland, 614-783-5833

DOES ‘KING DAVID’ OWN THE SENATE, TOO?

Columbus—Innovation Ohio, a progressive think tank headquartered in Columbus today called on the Ohio Senate to “kill the outrageous charter school amendments passed by House Republicans that are expressly designed to benefit and enrich a single for-profit operator—David Brennan—at the expense of Ohio taxpayers.”

Brennan’s White Hat Management company receives $78 million per year in taxpayer money to run 31 charter schools in Ohio, 20 of which are in “academic emergency” or on “academic watch.” Since 2000, Brennan has collected an estimated $500 million in state money.

IO’s request precedes hearings in the Senate Finance Committee this week on whether to adopt the House’s version of the Kasich administration’s proposed state budget, which includes the pro-Brennan amendments. 7 of the 8 Republican members of the Finance Committee majority have received political contributions from Brennan

Initially, House leaders repeatedly claimed they “couldn’t remember” who sponsored the charter school amendments or how they got into the House bill. House Speaker William Batchhelder called it a “damn lie” that Brennan’s financial largesse played a role. But on the May 29 “Capital Square” television show aired on the Ohio News Network, Batchelder admitted the amendments were added at the direct request of Brennan, the Republican party’s second largest financial contributor.

Among the most egregious are amendments that would:

  • Allow Mr. Brennan to keep secret how he spends the tax dollars he receives for operating his 31 Ohio charter schools;
  • Ban the state from suspending or putting on probation charter schools that perform poorly, are mismanaged or which have been found guilty of violating the law;
  • End the requirement that charter school operators like Brennan have independent “sponsors” to whom they are accountable

Said IO Communications Director Dale Butland:

“After weeks of pretending he couldn’t remember the origin of these outrageous charter school amendments—and angrily denouncing as a ‘damn lie’ the suggestion that David Brennan’s campaign contributions had something to do with it—Speaker Batchelder has now finally come clean and admitted the amendments were inserted into the budget bill at Brennan’s specific request. Brennan, of course, is the same man who has personally pumped nearly $3 million into Republican candidates and causes, including $70,000 into the campaign coffers of the Speaker himself. ‘Damn lie’, indeed.

“Apparently, ‘King David’ isn’t satisfied to have pocketed over $500 million in taxpayer money to run 31 charter schools, some of which have worse graduation rates than Cleveland City schools. Now he also demands no accountability, no oversight, and no obligation to answer questions about how he spends all this public money.

“Instead of looking out for the taxpayers who elected them, House Republicans took care of the human ATM machine who bankrolls their party. Will Senate Republicans finally stand up to King David, or will they too shamefully bow, scrape and do his bidding? This David has morphed into Goliath. The only question left is whether the Senate will finally have the backbone to pick up a sling shot.”