Here’s an e-mail I sent on May 10 to the Associated Press bureau chief in Oklahoma City.
I write to request a correction.
In a story posted May 5 ("Oklahoma Senate gives final OK to authorize tax credits for private school scholarship programs"), the AP reported: "Critics of the plan questioned why state money is being used to subsidize scholarships to send students to private schools." Because your reporter wrote "state money”—rather than "what they describe as state money"—the reader is left with the impression that the AP believes state money is involved. But in fact, state money is not involved.
As it happens, just last month the Supreme Court of the United States answered this very question. In Arizona Christian School Tuition Organization v. Winn et al, the Court considered an Arizona law very similar to the Oklahoma measure. Regarding the argument that a tax credit is best understood as a governmental expenditure, the Court said quite succinctly: "That is incorrect."
The Court went on to say [emphasis mine]: "When Arizona taxpayers choose to contribute to STOs, they spend their own money, not money the State has collected from respondents or from other taxpayers. ... [C]ontributions result from the decisions of private taxpayers regarding their own funds. ...
"Like contributions that lead to charitable tax deductions, contributions yielding STO tax credits are not owed to the State and, in fact, pass directly from taxpayers to private organizations. Respondents’ contrary position assumes that income should be treated as if it were government property even if it has not come into the tax collector’s hands. That premise finds no basis in standing jurisprudence. Private bank accounts cannot be equated with the Arizona State Treasury."
I respectfully ask you to issue a correction. Thank you for your consideration of this request,
Vice President for Policy
Oklahoma Council of Public Affairs
1401 N. Lincoln Blvd.
Oklahoma City, OK 73104
I have yet to hear back from the AP—it’s possible they’re still grumpy that I publicized their ties to Soros-funded nonprofits—but I remain hopeful. Stay tuned.
UPDATE: It's February 1, 2013, and I have to confess I'm starting to lose hope. This despite the fact that Andrew Coulson says the standards editor of the Associated Press "ultimately agreed that it was a misrepresentation for journalists to call these private donations 'public money.'" Here's hoping the AP folks in Oklahoma will take note.