Letter – Follow the money
Published 5:13 pm Tuesday, September 19, 2023
Editor, The Smithfield Times:
This past February, The Smithfield Times published an article pointing out Isle of Wight County School Board member Jason Maresh received a $750 in-kind donation last year from a Virginia-based, conservative PAC focused on public education reform. The donation (properly disclosed during the campaign) set up Mr. Maresh’s campaign website, including a feature that makes it easier to report online campaign contributions accurately.
Hopefully, the Times will provide similar scrutiny to some of our candidates in this year’s election. One example would be the District 2 candidate for School Board, Timothy Mallory, receiving $2,500 from Leonard Bennett, a Newport News attorney. This single donation alone is more money than any Isle of Wight School Board candidate has raised in total in a whole campaign. Mr. Bennett’s interest in the IW School Board isn’t clear. Still, one could see how his history of providing over $1.6 million to Democratic Party candidates could appear as “injecting politics into our schools.” Also, Mr. Mallory uses “ActBlue,” a Democratic Party/progressive platform that helps candidates raise funds online and report it accurately. Sounds a lot like Mr. Maresh’s much-maligned in-kind donation.
A second example is Laequinla Hunter, who is running against Mr. Maresh for the District 4 School Board seat. Her campaign has received $1,171 of in-kind contributions from her nonprofit, Community Harvest, for “printing and mailing 2,759 mailers.” I don’t know why Mrs. Hunter’s nonprofit would intertwine itself with her political campaign, as it would appear to violate the IRS Code forbidding 501(c)(3) organizations from favoring one candidate over another.
Lastly, 84th District House of Delegates candidate (and new Suffolk resident) Nadarius Clark reported 67 individual donors during the most recent reporting period. Of those, 49% listed “Not Employed” as their occupation, only 16% possibly live in the district, and 37% do not even live in Virginia.
There will always be a mix between money and politics. This includes school boards, as anyone who went to the Isle of Wight County Fair this past weekend saw at the political party booths. I encourage everyone to use resources like www.vpap.org to educate themselves on where this money comes from.