We’ve all learned quite a lot about the ethics and values of the Huntsville City Schools Board of Education and Superintendent Col. Casey Wardynski in the past couple of days, namely, that it was so important to contract with Pinnacle Schools and have access to its own private detention facility, aka the teepees at Elk River, that they were all willing to overlook that the only argument for the effectiveness of programs like Elk River, its CEO Karen Lee’s assurance that such had done wonders for her kid, was just a little questionable, since when they approved the contract, not one but two of her kids were out on bond facing charges of drug trafficking and possession of a small arsenal.
Today I want to talk about the campaign finances of Superintendent Wardynski’s most fawning cheerleader and the Board member usually credited for bringing him to Huntsville, Dr. Jennie Robinson, and the Pinnacle Schools’ apologist, Board member David Blair.
When Robinson ran for re-election in 2010, she raised over $60,000, far more than her opponent, and the record amount ever raised by a Huntsville School Board candidate. She had “three main backers”: “the Committee of 100, the Alabama Builders and John A. Nolan III.”
Reporter Challen Stephens calls The Committee of 100 “a group of local lawyers and business leaders.” There are also a number of doctors in the 100. Working through this list might prove interesting. They supported Robinson to the tune of $17,500. Half of David Blair’s total contributions came from this group. What return did they expect on their $20,000 investment in Blair and their total $37,500 in the District 2 and 3 races in 2010?
In the 2012 election, The Committee of 100 endorsed Laurie McCaulley for Huntsville Board of Education, District 1 and Mike Culbreath for District 5. Both won.
The Alabama Builders PAC gave Robinson $10,000 and Blair, $7,000.
What really jumped out at me, though, was the third of Robinson’s supporters, John A. Nolan III. He and his wife gave her $13,600 directly. Stephens reported that she “also received $5,500 during the runoff from North Alabama Christian Conservatives PAC, a new group. Nolan said he gave to that PAC, but does not run it.”
Why would an individual donate $13,600 (or maybe the better part of $19,100) to Robinson. What horse does Nolan have in this race?
I don’t care who Robinson’s pals are; that’s none of my business. But I am interested in her campaign backers because money is a big factor in the sucess of a campaign. While individuals donate to the Humane Society or UNICEF out of the goodness of their hearts, I simply don’t believe they make large personal donations to candidates for purely unselfish, altruistic reasons.
So I googled, and this is what I learned. In my value system, Nolan would qualify as a unsavory character, not one I’d like to owe any favors. But I think it is fairly obvious that my values are not those held by the Board and Supe.
When Nolan owned Phoenix Consulting, he could fairly have been called a corporate spy for hire. One of his own clients — Proctor and Gamble — says his company was “out of control.” Proctor and Gamble was involved in a corporate spying scandal in 2001. Fortune magazine reported that P&G:
engaged in a corporate espionage program against competitors in its hair care business – Unilever, in particular – that even the company itself admits spun out of control. . . After . . . senior managers discovered what the company is calling a “rogue operation,” P&G executives wrote a letter to Unilever outlining the situation.. . .
Sources say that P&G hired corporate spies through a contractor, and at least some of them worked out of a private “safe house,” nicknamed “The Ranch.” Sources say one of the companies that was employed by P&G was The Phoenix Consulting Group of Huntsville, Alabama. Phoenix was founded and is staffed by former government intelligence officers, including its president, John A. Nolan III, who served in the Phoenix Program, a covert operation in Vietnam. Nolan declined comment.
Oh, my. Next I goggled the Phoenix Program. Nauseating.
The CIA-backed Phoenix Program assassinated and jailed large numbers of Vietnamese civilians without evidence of judicial procedure. This fact was confirmed by [former CIA Dir William] Colby in an admission to Representative Reid in his July 1971 testimony before Congress. According to Colby, the Phoenix Program had resulted in the deaths of 20,587 persons as of May 1971. That number, proportionate to population, would have totaled over 200,000 Americans deliberately assassinated over a three-year period had Phoenix been conducted in the United States.
The Vietnam War Phoenix Program is controversial to this day. Supporters say that it was a legal and closely controlled US-Vietnamese intelligence program aimed at destroying the Viet Cong infrastructure, while the critics say that it was an illegal system of arresting, torturing and murdering innocent Vietnamese civilians.
Let’s conclude by reviewing recent local history:
- June 2009: Superintendent Ann Roy Moore receives perfect evaluation from Board.
- Fall 2010: Robinson re-elected to School Board.
- January 2011. Superintendent Ann Roy Moore agrees to Board’s contract buy-out.
- Spring 2011: Colonel Casey Wardynski recruited for Superintendent position.