The Education Action Group (EAG) first appeared in the summer of 2007, organized by long-time Republican General Counsel Eric Doster and former Republican staffer and lobbyist Kyle Olson. It attempts to influence school bargaining in order to reduce union influence and to lower MESSA market share. It also enters into school board campaigns to oppose union-endorsed candidates.
Kyle Olson is the former lobbyist for the Michigan Association of Realtors, served as district director and campaign manager for Republican Gerald VanWoerkom’s campaign for state Senate in 2002 and lost his run as a Republican for Muskegon County Board of Commissioners in 2006. He now works as “Vice President” of EAG and is 2nd district Republican State Committeeman.
Kyle’s brother Ryan was the Director of Education Policy at the right wing think tank Mackinac Center in Midland Michigan. They do not appear to be related to D. Joseph Olson, Vice President and General Counsel – Government Relations for Amerisure Insurance Company and founder of the Mackinac Center.
EAG was incorporated by Eric Doster, who has been General Counsel for the state Republican Party for the last 18 years. He’s also an attorney at the Lansing law firm Foster, Swift, Collins and Smith, PC, whose website lists healthcare as one of Doster’s practice areas.
Doster represented U.S. Rep. Tim Walberg in his recall fight in 2007. He was appointed to the Judges’ Retirement Board by Gov. John Engler in 1996. In 2004, he represented Citizens for the Protection of Marriage, and was widely quoted as promising that the ballot measure would not impact domestic partner benefits (see Rewarding dishonesty in Lansing, Detroit Free Press, May 9, 2008.). He is a member of the ultra right wing Federalist Society, and sits on the board of the Great Lakes Education Project political action committee (GLEP PAC).
In 1999, the conservative wing of the Michigan Supreme Court authored the holding in the Husted v Auto Owners Insurance Company case, widely seen as benefiting insurance companies at the expense of individuals. Kalamazoo attorney James B. Ford, who represented the plaintiff, said the ruling was “completely political” and “makes no sense when compared to the language and history of the no-fault statute…This is almost an absurd decision on its face,” Ford commented. “And until widows and orphans can donate as much money as insurance companies [to judicial campaigns], we’ll continue to see these types of decisions.”
Eric Doster filed a complaint with the Attorney Grievance Commission, demanding that Ford’s license to practice law be revoked. The complaint was dismissed but a state-wide debate among attorneys ensued, over whether such comments warrant discipline or constitute protected free speech.
One such debate appeared in a State Bar of Michigan newsletter. The pro-discipline side was written by D. Joseph Olson. The bio box at the bottom of his arguments (presumably written by him), ends with: “He proudly confesses to being Chairman of the Mackinac Center and a member of the Federalist Society.”
The EAG website is located on servers owned by “Domains by Proxy” a division of Godaddy.com that allows people to anonymously sponsor websites. As a result, anyone who investigates the EAG website will find that the “owner” is located in Scottsdale, Arizona, where DBP is located. Website owners pay a premium to have DBP host their sites. DBP is a favorite for spammers to host their operations
A month after Eric Doster incorporated the Education Action Group, Kyle Olson filed articles of incorporation for the “Education Action Fund”. It differs in a number of ways from EAG.
Although both are incorporated as non-profits:
- EAF was organized under the provisions of IRS section 527. (The Swift Boat Veterans for Truth were also a 527.) EAG was organized under IRS section 501(c)(4).
- EAG’s resident agent is Foster Swift attorney Eric Doster; EAF is run by Olson.
- EAG is financed by: “… contributions from corporate foundations and private foundations.” EAF describes its financing as: “… Bequests, grants, gifts and donations from Corporations, organizations and individuals, and grants and donations from federal, state and local governments…”
- While EAG’s professed purposes included: “To assist the education community to harness public support for meaningful education reform.” EAF is intended to “… raise public consciousness about … the positions of incumbent public officials … without engaging in express advocacy for or against any identified candidates,” and “… to engage in … political activities, including activities the will encourage … members of the community to become… members of a Board of Education … except that the Corporation shall not… expressly advocate the election or defeat of any clearly identified candidate …”
In September 2007 Foster Swift junior attorney Todd W. Hoppe incorporated the Michigan School Board Leaders Forum, a 501(c)(3) non-profit designed to “To be a portal for school board members to gain information and research as it relates to present-day problems, unions and issues facing school districts in Michigan” and to “be a forum for school board members to share ideas, experiences, and to coordinate to (sic) create the best public schools possible for the students of Michigan.” It’s name was changed to “The Center for Government Reform” in late 2008.