CINCINNATI (TDB) -- Internet tycoon Patrick Byrne, the chairman and CEO of Overstock.com and a passionate proponent of school-choice vouchers, gave $100,000 to Ken Blackwell's Citizens for Tax Reform last year, recently filed state campaign finance records show. Citizens for Tax Reform was a group pushing the so-called TEL amendment to the Ohio Constitution that was withdrawn. TEL was a pet project of Blackwell's, and it would have have placed hard caps on government spending and taxes.
Byrne made his donation in August, after the proposed amendment was pulled from the ballot at the urging of state GOP leaders who feared a massacre at the polls. The massacre happened anyway. Some of Byrne's donation was used by Citizens for Tax Reform to repay Blackwell, who received $15,000 back on a personal loan he made to the group, the campaign finance records indicate. The committee still owes Blackwell money.
While most people think TEL is dead, the group that collected petitions to place the issue on the ballot appears very much alive. Citizen for Tax Reforms filed an end-of-year campaign finance report, and it is engaged in litigation against Ohio in the 6th Circuit U.S. Court of Appeals, where a recently adopted state law that governs how signatures are gathered on initiative petitions is under review. Ohio Attorney General Marc Dann's office has to file a brief next month.
Byrne thinks 65 percent of public school budgets should be funnelled into classrooms, and Blackwell picked up on the idea in 2005. The concept has been attacked by some public school administrators and teacher union officials, but others think it might actually improve student performance. Byrne told Cleveland Plain Dealer reporter Chris Seper last July that he and Blackwell "shared a passion for vouchers," the program that allows public funds to pay student tuition at private and parochial schools.
The campaign finance report showing Byrne's donation is HERE and HERE.
You can look at Byrne's Overstock.com Web site HERE. Byrne is highly educated and appears to have serious ideas about school reform. He went to Dartmouth, Cambridge and Stanford University, where he received a Ph.D.
Perhaps somebody in state government ought to invite him to Columbus to hear what he has to say. If British PM Tony Blair's ex-education advisor can get time to appear before the Ohio Board of Education, why not Byrne?