by David Safier
A letter was mailed to residents of the Foothills School District October 26 from Munger Chadwick P.L.C., Attorneys at Law, signed by John Munger. It is a letter of endorsement for Tammy Caillet-Falbaum, who is running for Foothills School District Board. The letter is on official Munger Chadwick stationery and came in the firm's envelope with its return address at the top. You can see the letter and the top of the envelope below the fold.
In case you don't know John Munger, he's a very conservative Tucson attorney who has been involved in local Republican politics for years and ran for Governor this year. He dropped out fairly early in the primary season.
If there was any question before, it's clear now that Caillet-Falbaum is backed by a concerted effort to get a political conservative on the Foothills School Board. As education becomes increasingly politicized, conservatives want to have a stronger voice on school boards. That's their right, of course, but it's important that people understand what's going on. If you look at Caillet-Falbaum's website and listen to her speak, you get only hints of her conservative leanings.
As I have posted earlier, Caillet-Falbaum's campaign has spent thousands of dollars on signs with her color photo as well as other forms of campaigning. The campaign actually spent a few thousand dollars on a kickoff party, which shows how much money it had to burn. Well funded campaigns for school board are almost unheard of. Most candidates spend less than $500. Together, John Munger and his wife alone contributed $820, more than the total expenditures on most school board campaigns.
Some people really, really want Caillet-Falbaum to be on that school board.
So what are her positions? If you look on her website, you'll find innocuous, general statements about what she wants to accomplish. The only indication I have seen of her conservative educational positions is in her answers to an email she received which asked a few pointed questions.
She believes, for instance, that Intelligent Design should be taught in school alongside evolution:
Most information about evolutionary theory tends to present the argument as fact. Schools often present evolutionary theory as fact. Creation, or intelligent design theory, is most often disallowed from public school discussion, yet even Charles Darwin had doubts about the conclusions his questions left him with . . . It is my belief, that until we have concrete evidence to the contrary, evolution and intelligent design should be taught side-by-side as possible theories, and not as fact.
She was asked if she supported abstinence only sex education. Her answer danced around the issue, using a quote which calls it "abstinence focused education" and saying it should be incorporated into the curriculum.
She supports tuition tax credits, saying they save the state money.
She was asked why, since she sends her children to private school, does she want to serve on the board? Her answer was, she wants to "serve as an unbiased advocate for every member of this district."
Those answers will make some people support her more, others less, but unlike her website, they give some indication of what she will bring to the school board. In my opinion, she will also bring John Munger's ideas and tactics with her, which she will use to try and refocus the board and the district toward an educationally conservative agenda.
Let me end this with two questions about Munger's letter. First, the cost of creating and mailing the letter is clearly coming out of his pocket. There is no "Paid for by . . ." statement to be found. I don't know if this in considered an in kind contribution to the campaign, which could raise red flags with elections regulations, or if it's just considered an individual expressing his opinion.
Second, how did Munger get the names and addresses of the people he sent the letter to? I have reason to believe he created a mailing list from a directory Foothills parents can buy listing the names and addresses of all the families sending children to the district's schools. That directory says the information is supposed to be for private use only. If Munger had someone type out addresses on a large quantity of envelopes and send the letter to hundreds or maybe thousands of parents — I doubt he just sent out a few dozen, that wouldn't justify the effort — he is violating the spirit the directory was created in, at the very least. I don't know if there are any legal issues involved.
Expect to see more well funded conservative candidates running for school boards in future elections. I have been told that Scott Leska, running for the Amphi School Board, is cut from similar cloth to Caillet-Falbaum and also has far more street signs than other candidates, even though his most recent campaign finance statement lists under $100 in expenditures, none of which went for signs. His final statement, I imagine, will tell the tale of his finances and campaign backers.
You can read Munger's letter and the top portion of the envelope below the fold.