According to her Facebook Campaign page, Laurie McCaulley, current District 1 representative and Huntsville City Schools Board President, kicked off her campaign for the August 23, 2016 election on June 23, 2016 with the following attempts at hashtags: “#Standing Strong For Children #Fighting for Our Children”. After reviewing her campaign finance records, one donor stood out above the rest.
(While I wouldn’t want to supersede Driscoll Communications’ advice to your campaign, Ms. McCaulley, hashtags can’t use spaces. You might want to keep that in mind in the future.)
Standing Strong for Children?
Unfortunately, in her initial post, Ms. McCaulley didn’t offer any clear evidence or plan for how she has been “standing strong for children and fighting for our children,” I decided that it was time to go take a look at her campaign finance reports to see exactly who she would be standing strong for if she managed to retain the district 1 seat she is running for.
Since she seems to be the only board member running for reelection this election year (Mike Culbreath, if he is running, has yet to file any campaign paperwork), I thought I would start with reviewing her donors first.
Nine Itemized Donors Make $4,100.00 in Donations
So far, Ms. McCaulley has received nine donations from her itemized donations totaling $4,100.00. She has also receive an undisclosed number of non-itemized donations totaling $1,195.00 for a total of $5,295.00 as of the latest report filed on June 2, 2016 reporting on her activity in May 2016.
Those nine donors include the following individuals and companies.
- W. Ken Upchurch III, Owner of TCU Consulting: $500.00
- CCU LLC. Corporation based out of Montgomery owned by W. Ken Upchurch, III: $1,500.00
- Leon Fountain, member of the Huntsville Housing Authority’s Board of Commissioners: $250.00
- Rex Cheatham, former HEA UniServ Director: $500.00
- S. David Johnston, lawyer: $350.00
- D. Scott McLain, real estate broker: $250.00
- Jerry M. Cargile, owner of 4Site: $250.00
- Douglas C. Martinson II, former HCS Board Member: $250.00
- Sharp Communications, security firm in Huntsville: $250.00
As you can see, nearly half of the itemized donations and 37% of the total donations Ms. McCaulley has received have come from W. Ken Upchurch, III.
Who is Donor W. Ken Upchurch, III and TCU Consulting?
Ken Upchurch has been working for Huntsville City Schools in overseeing most of its construction contracts since April 2012. As you can see on his website, TCU has managed the construction of nearly every new school construction since that time:
- AAA Renovations
- Grissom High School
- Huntsville High School’s Freshman Academy
- Jemison High School & McNair Jr. High
- Milton Frank Stadium Renovations
- Hereford Elementary School
- Whitesburg P8
I believe that TCU is also involved in the Martin Luther King, Jr. renovations and will be involved in the new Morris Elementary construction just begun.
Ms. McCaulley is, or recently was, the school board representative for AAA, Jemison/McNair, Sonnie Hereford, and Martin Luther King, Jr. schools. (AAA moved to District 5 this year.)
Grissom and Whitesburg are both in District 3 with Ms. Ferrell. Huntsville High and Morris are both in District 4 with Mr. McGinnis.
It isn’t clear why Mr. Upchurch wished to make a second political donation through his Montgomery based company, CCC LLC, but it is clear that this is a company that he owns and uses to make political donations.
Mr. Upchurch also made political donations to other board members in the past as well:
- Dr. Jennie Robinson’s 2014 City Council Campaign: $500.00
- Mr. Walker McGinnis’ 2014 School Board Campaign: $200.00
- Ms. Elisa Ferrell’s 2014 School Board campaign: $200.00
The two donation totaling $2,000 to Ms. McCaulley are, however, the largest amount he has donated to a board member so far.
TCU Consulting has Been Paid Almost 6 Million Dollars Since April 2012
As you can see from the chart below, TCU Consulting has been paid $5,912,588.15 from April 2012 to April 2016 in state and local funds for “Other Prof Service.”
So under Ms. McCaulley’s supervision, Mr. Upchurch has earned nearly $6 million over the past four years.
Political Donations and the Law
Sadly, primarily because our campaign finance laws are written by politicians who benefit from their fecklessness, none of this is likely illegal.
Upchurch isn’t even the only political donor to Ms. McCaulley’s campaign who is currently being paid by the district. Sharp Communications donated $250.00 to her campaign and has been paid nearly a million dollars by the school board over the past four years as well.
So while it probably isn’t illegal, it certainly does stink, and it calls into question who Ms. McCaulley is actually working for as a board member.
She was remarkable unconcerned when vast numbers of her constituents voiced their issues with the way that she maneuvered the renaming of the high school in her district in 2013. (Perhaps she believed everyone would forget by the time she began her reelection campaign?)
In fact, her primary concern over these past four years seems to have been keeping Dr. Wardynski happy, so he’ll keep her on the board. She was willing to butcher logic on his behalf when confronted with evidence that the board, under her “leadership,” hasn’t voted no on a single proposal by the superintendent.
(Holding discussions prior to the board meeting to avoid voting “no” is not an example of transparency, Ms. McCaulley. It is actually the exact opposite.)
So while we the people likely cannot force our politicians to refuse political donations from the people and companies they are supposed to be supervising, we do have one tool in our box to respond to these kinds of actions: we don’t have to vote for politicians who accept donations that smell this badly.
The deadline to register to vote is
July 19, 2016. (The City had the wrong date listed. The correct date is Monday, August 8, 2016. I apologize for the error.) You may register to vote by going to AlabamaVotes.gov and completing your registration there.
If you, like I, believe that our board members should represent the people and the students rather than the contractors then on August 23, 2016 vote.
Let’s send Ms. McCaulley home for the next four years.