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The 2010 Election: How Three Foundations Are Providing (Nonpartisan) Assistance



October 28th, 2010
by Lee-Lee Prina

Read about the nonpartisan election-related efforts of three foundations. (As you may know, 501(c)(3) private foundations are prohibited from participating in political campaigns. For details, see this Internal Revenue Service publication.)

Publication of the Views of Candidates in One Statewide Race

Bob Ross, president and chief executive officer of  the California Endowment (TCE), said in an e-mail alert this week that as part of TCE’s “ongoing effort to provide voters with information about the candidates and issues,” he invited both of the candidates for California superintendent of public instruction “to post a guest blog” on the foundation’s website. The topic? They were asked “to share their views about the role schools can play in promoting health in California.” Both of the candidates responded, and TCE published their statements on the website (not actually on a blog) “completely unedited,” Ross said.

He also made very clear in his e-alert that TCE “does not support or oppose any candidate for elective office” and urged readers to get out and vote for the candidate of their choice.

Not being familiar with this statewide race, I found out a bit more about the candidates for this office by reading an October 26 article in the Los Angeles Times. According to this article, both candidates are “espousing classically liberal positions.” One candidate, Larry Aceves, “changed his party affiliation from Democrat to Independent,” the paper reported. The other candidate, Tom Torlakson, is a Democratic member of the California Assembly. A spokesperson for the California Endowment explained to me that the superintendent’s office is nonpartisan.

In the statement Aceves sent TCE, he says he wants “to restore the 17 billion dollars of public school funding that has been cut” because of the recent state budget deficit. He also points out his accomplishments as superintendent in San Jose, California. For example, he notes: “We were able to create a free medical and dental clinic.” He describes other issues that are important to him. Among these are providing nutritious school meals and training school staffs and teaching children “about the effects of bullying and how to stop it.” Read his full statement here. Aceves has been endorsed by several newspapers, including the San Francisco Chronicle.

Torlakson, who has worked as a teacher, underlines (literally) this sentence in his statement: “We must address student health to fight the achievement gap and the drop out rate.” Nutrition and physical activity are important: The schools’ role “in addressing student health begins with a healthy meal, and exercise,” he notes. Torlakson also mentions the importance of “adequate, basic” health care and says that many kids in California are not receiving that level of care. He maintains that “county and non-profit health services must be maximized for our students and their families” and mentions the advantages of “coordinated school services.” Read his full statement here.

Flu Shots Offered on Election Day 

Have you gotten your flu shot yet? The Robert Wood Johnson Foundation (RWJF) is again helping out with a multistate immunization effort, as it did in 2004, 2006, and 2008. This year the RWJF and an additional funder, AARP, are sponsoring Vote & Vax vaccination clinics at local polling places nationwide (in forty-nine states and the District of Columbia) on Election Day, November 2. Flu shots will be offered “at or close to local polling places,” according to an October 19 e-mail alert. Even if you are not voting, or are not even registered to vote, you can still get a low-cost or free flu shot at these locations.

The clinics sponsored by the nonpartisan Vote & Vax initiative “are also a valuable exercise in emergency preparedness for public health and emergency management agencies,” the RWJF points out. Running a clinic improves agencies’ “capacity to immunize potentially large numbers of people at community venues, which can help public health providers respond effectively to future emergencies.” Agencies can still register for a free kit describing how to set up a clinic at a polling station—while supplies last—and can receive technical assistance from Vote & Vax.

The grantee for the Vote & Vax initiative is SPARC (Sickness Prevention Achieved through Regional Collaboration), which is led by Doug Shenson, a physician and an associate clinical professor at Yale University School of Public Health. Read a 2008 profile about this innovative project. 

Poll Results

And on October 18, the Henry J. Kaiser Family Foundation (KFF) released a Poll Watch, titled “New Tracking Poll Finds Americans Divided over Health Law.” It contains results of the foundation’s own poll. The KFF states: “With the November midterm elections just weeks away, Americans remain chronically divided over the Patient Protection and Affordable Care Act, but most say that their feelings—pro and con—about the health reform law are not a dominant factor in how they will vote for Congress or whether they will go to the polls.” For more results of this tracking poll, which was conducted October 5–10 by Princeton Survey Research Associates, click here

The KFF’s latest Poll Watch, October 22, mentions a survey by the Pew Research Center for the People and the Press which “asks registered voters which [political] party they prefer to deal with [on] issues such as health care,” the KFF says. The Pew Center is an initiative of the Pew Charitable Trusts, which became a public charity several years ago.

The KFF’s regularly occurring Poll Watch feature appears on the foundation’s Health Reform Source gateway page and is a roundup of surveys from the KFF and others “assessing public attitudes and experiences over time related to the health reform law.”

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