The Albuquerque-based liberal nonprofit group ProgressNow New Mexico has filed a formal complaint to the Internal Revenue Service accusing a Florida nonprofit of improperly paying for state Education Secretary Designate Hanna Skandera travels.
The complaint against Foundation for Excellence in Education, a Florida nonprofit run by former Republican Gov. Jeb Bush, cites how the nonprofit paid nearly $3,500 for Skandera's airfare travels to conferences in 2011 and 2012. Pat Davis, executive director of ProgressNowNM, claims the travel payments violate IRS rules because nonprofits aren't allowed to pay public officials. He adds that the foundation's payments for Skandera's travel don't show up on the nonprofit's tax returns.
Davis also criticizes the foundation's conventions for being a "dating service between for-profit companies and public officials who get to decide where public money goes." Some for-profit companies like K12 Inc. are foundation donors and also have education contracts with New Mexico.
"Bottom line, this is about transparency," Davis says. "It's companies who are greatly interested in privatizing New Mexico education."
PED spokeswoman Aimee Barabe dismisses the complaint as a "political stunt by a discredited left-wing political group."
"PED adheres to state and federal laws—in this situation and others," Barabe writes in an email.
Skandera's travel payments haven't only been paid for by the foundation. SFR previously reported on how for-profit groups like Summit Education Associates, Inc. and nonprofits like the Partnership for Assessment of Readiness for College and Careers have paid for her trips over the years.
Read ProgressNow's IRS complaint below: