In a stunning smear, a GOP group chaired by a prominent Republican strategist and funded by the state Republican leadership, has sent a mailing to Florida voters accusing an elementary school teacher running for state legislature of enabling child molestation because she is in a teacher’s union.
The mailings — by a group called the Committee to Protect Florida — attack Karen Castor Dentel, an elementary school teacher in Maitland, Florida, and the Democratic challenger for the 30th District State House of Representatives seat. Because she is a member of the Florida Education Association, which opposed a 2011 bill that eliminated tenure for public-school teachers, the mailer says she would “rather protect bad teachers and the union” than “young and impressionable students.” One one side of the mailing is a picture of convicted serial child molester Jerry Sandusky — who as an assistant football coach at Penn State would not have been protected by any Florida public school teacher’s union; the other side shows a picture of her and the other says:
Karen Castor Dentel’s priorities are clear:
* Use tenure policies to protect bad, burnt-out, longtime teachers at the expense of younger, better teachers.
* Use the courts to keep all teachers in the classroom – even those who prey on young people.
* The right to use our tax dollars and valuable student learning time to promote her political campaign.
Karen Castor Dentel: Good for the union, bad for kids.
The Orlando Sentinel reports that even the Republican incumbent, State Rep. Scott Plakon, denounced the ad as sounding “indefensible,” and called it “exhibit A” of why campaign finance reform is needed to stop anonymous groups from making such attacks. The Supreme Court’s 5-4 Citizens United ruling allows outside attacks like this with very little disclosure or restriction.
But the mailings were largely funded by his own party’s leadership: incoming Florida House Speaker Will Weatherford (R) and Rep. Richard Corcoran (R), who is in line to become Florida’s Speaker in 2016. Financial disclosures for the group also indicate that the Florida Chamber of Commerce Alliance Inc., the Florida Medical Association, and AFSCME have made significant contributions to the group.
A spokesman for AFSCME told ThinkProgress: “AFSCME, in no uncertain terms, denounces this despicable and ugly mailer. Attacks like this have no place in our public discourse. Karen Castor Dentel is our endorsed candidate in the race for House District 30. She will be a champion for working families in Tallahassee.”