Milwaukee School Board President Peter Blewett today condemned the use of “push polling” against him in his campaign for re-election to the Milwaukee School Board.
Blewett explained that numerous supporters in his district have received “push poll” calls this week from the Parker Group of Birmingham , Alabama . These calls start off with straight-forward questions, and then ask voters “push questions,” stating that Blewett authorized Board Member Charlene Hardin to attend a personal trip with Board funds.
Blewett stated for the record, “I did not authorize Director Charlene Hardin’s trip to Philadelphia .” As President, all Board member travel is supposed to come across his desk, but the Philadelphia trip was approved by the MPS administration without Blewett’s knowledge, he explained. “The entire trip is under investigation now, an investigation that I hope is completed very soon,” Blewett added. “If the investigation concludes that Director Hardin broke the public trust by using taxpayer money for personal reasons, as the media has reported, then the Board has already acted to censure her. If reports are true, I have also called for her to repay the funds to the district,” Blewett said.
“These push polls are classic sleazy campaign tricks,” Blewett stated. “I have never used them. I want a campaign that focuses on how MPS can prepare our students for the challenging world of work or higher education. Voters have a right to hear about how candidates plan to improve MPS. Secretly-funded sleaze campaigns debase the democratic process and insult voters’ intelligence,” Blewett added.
Blewett said, “I have no idea whether my opponent or some group supporting her paid for this push poll because the callers from the Parker Group will not clearly identify who paid except, in one case to answer, ‘The school board,’ which of course is a lie.” Blewett added, “I hope my opponent had nothing to do with these dirty tricks, and that she will immediately call for any group associated with her to desist from these and any other sleazy tactics.”
The Parker Group is a political and corporate telemarketing operation that is most notorious for engaging in “race-matched calling” where its African American employees are given one script to call black voters while its white employees call white voters with a different script, Blewett explained. In 1999, a federal court of appeals found the Parker Group guilty of racial discrimination in employment against an African-American employee because she was only permitted to telephone black voters.