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Sproul & Associates

Ohanian Comment: This is from Fooled Again by Mark Crispin Miller (Basic Books 2005)

You can read more about Voyager slime by putting "Voyager" into a search from the home page on this site. Over 40 posts of outrage.

Does anyone still believe in the U. S. Department of Education's claim that they're putting 'scientific' reading programs into the schools?

I often chastize people for calling NCLB a right-wing plot to take over the schools. I do this because of the heavy Business Roundtable, Democratic Leadership Council, et al involvement. But my god, the right wing conspiracies certainly do exist. Here you see the connection between and among the ultra right wing Christian conservatives, the move to overthrow and usurp democratic elections, and federally-imposed reading instruction in the public schools.

Please note that someone scanned a few pages from Crispin's book into a pdf file. PDF files act strangely when translated to this site. So there are liable to be typos that I haven't detected. Nonetheless, the horror is there.

The boldest effort to suppress the national Democratic vote in- ~ volved the services of Nathan Sproul, an industrious young theocrat whose company, Sproul & Associates, was active in the swing states and elsewhere from September through Election Day, ostensibly to register new voters. That furtive enterprise- involving fraud, deception, copyright infringement, the systematic disenfranchisement of untold thousands of Democrats and Independents, and the secretive reregistration of still further thousands as Republicans without their full consentplayed a far larger role in Bush's victory than anyone has thus far understood. For Sproul's peculiar expertise, the Republican National Committee paid millions, and, moreover, paid his firm for two months past Election Day; and then the RNC apparently "revised" its numbers to convey the misimpression that the firm did far less work for Bush & Co. than it had actually performed.

Nathan Sproul's biography is pertinent here, as it will help illuminate the blend of zeal and avarice that largely drives Bush/Cheney's juggernaut. Born and raised in Tempe, Arizona, and a graduate of Pillsbury Bible Baptist College ("[It] is the mission of Pillsbury Baptist Bible College to glorify God through a Christian higher education program which imparts a biblical worldview, preparing students for Christian ministries in and through local Baptist churches"),69 Sproul started his career in far-right politics as an intern in the office of Rep. Jon Kyl (RAZ), who was among the rightmost members of the House, with a 100 percent approval rating from the Christian Coalition, 0 percent from NARAL and warm relations with the nation's defense contractors.70 Sproul was working in Kyl's office when the congressman parlayed those assets into his successful senatorial bid in 1994, beating Democrat Sam Coppersmith by a substantial margin. After that campaign, Sproul was hired as Executive Director of the Arizona Christian Coalition, where he fought to stop sex education in the public schools. ("There's no way you can do contraception education without saying we know you're going to have sex," he said in 1997, noting that he himself had not had sex until his marriage, in the summer of 1996.)71 While preaching abstinence to teens, Sproul was also surreptitiously exhorting fellow evangelicals to infiltrate the GOP. At the Christian Coalition's 1995 "Road to Victory" Conference, Sproul urged attendees at the Arizona Caucus meeting to become precinct committee chairs in order to elect delegates to the 1996 Republican National Convention. He also warned his listeners not to mention, ever, that the Coalition was involved. Throughout that meeting, Coalition guards were posted at the door, prepared to throw out anyone unknown to Sproul himself. (This incident was noted in a 1998 Senate inquiry into crimes and improprieties pertaining to the 1996 elections.)72

In 1999, Sproul abruptly left the Christian Coalition (along with scores of others, mostly from the Texas chapter) and started serving as executive director of the Arizona Republican Party, a ~ post he held until 2002.73 He then became regional president of Voyager Learning, which had lately set up shop in Arizona land in Texas.

The tale of this boondoggle says so much about Bush/Cheney and their apparatchiks-Sproul among them-that it calls for digression here. Although not demonstrably effectiveas an edu- cational concern, Voyager is very well-connected. Senior Vice President Jim Nelson has been Governor George W Bush's' pick to head the Texas Education Agency, and the corporation president, Randy Best, had served with Donald Rumsfeld on the board of Westmark Systems, "an Austin-based holding company specializing in acquiring military electronics companies," according to the Syracuse Post Standard. Voyager had also greased the wheels of Texas government by generously contributing to Governor Bush's run for re-election, donating over $45,000 to him and over $20,000 to his running mate, the state's lieutenant governor. Bush repaid the gesture with a $25 million state be- ~ quest for after-school programs, with Voyager enjoying a big slice.

In 2003, when the New York City Department of Education awarded Voyager a $50 million contract to strengthen the city's phonics curriculum, Public Advocate Betsy Gotbaum investigated the contractor, and she had this to say:

Voyager has produced little results. Research on Voyager programs is rare. When it is done at all, it is almost never conducted by evaluators with not connections to, or financial interest in, the company. The research and claims made by Voyager have been cited as flimsy and unscientific by several university scholars who specialize in reading curriculum.
Despite this record-and even though the No Child Left Behind Act stipulates that only scientifically tested teaching methods and curricula will be federally funded-Voyager has been clearly favored by Bush and CO.'s Department of Education, which has suggested that its grants for reading programs will be likelier to go to applicants who indicate a preference for particular commercial entities, Voyager among them.74

Having wet his beak at Voyager, Sproul returned to politics in 2004, leading No Taxpayer Money for Politicians (NTMP), an abortive rightist drive to scuttle Arizona's Clean Elections Law. (The measure, heavily backed by "a who's who of industry," as the Arizona Republic put it, would have eliminated public funding for elections.)75 The petition drive for NTMP was supervised by Aaron "A.J." James, president of Voters' Outreach of America (VOA). In June, Sproul had paid VOA to collect signatures for Ralph Nader's presidential candidacy in Arizona.

Sproul helped keep Bush & Co. in the "White House by deploying an exclusive form of "voter registration" that would have made Chicago's first Mayor Daley blush (if that were possible). It first made the papers in Las Vegas on July 31, although Sproul's involvement in the scam was not yet known. Outside the Department of Motor Vehicles in Vegas, Aaron Johnson-Hall and his wife, Christine, were asked to sign two petitions, one to get Nader on the ballot in Nevada, and the other to raise the minimum wage.76 The couple were Democrats, and therefore quite surprised to learn, a few weeks later, that they had voluntarily switched parties. Several weeks would pass before such stealth registration was connected to Sproul's operation in Nevada. In an interview with KLAS-~ the CBS affiliate in Las Vegas, on October 13, Eric Russell, who had worked for Sproul, charged that he had seen his supervisor shred eight to ten registration forms filled out by Democrats. "We caught her taking Democrats out of my pile, hand them to her assistant and he ripped them up right in front of us. I grabbed some of them out of the garbage and she tells her assistant to get those from me." According to the local Gap, Russell's story was notcredible because he was "a disgruntled employee"-a charge that Russell readily verified, as Sproul had docked his pay for registering Democrats.78 "They held oUf paychecks," he told the Associated Press. "Who wouldn't be disgruntled if some lady told you she wasn't going to pay you? That doesn't take away from the fact that I saw them rip up the forms."?9 In response, Sproul told the Arizona Republic that he was suing Russell for defamation: "That lawsuit claims that after Russell was fired, he returned to the office holding what appeared to be voter registration forms and told workers he would clam that he saw a supervisor tear up the forms unless he was paid what he wanted." Sproul's charge appears to have been false, as Russell never was served with a lawsuit, his lawyer, Michael Mushkin, told Salon.8O

And so on and so on.

— Mark Crispin Miller
Fooled Again



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