William E. Oberndorf

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William E. Oberndorf is a California billionaire investor who funds conservative causes such as the privatization of education. He is the co-founder and Chairman Emeritus of the Board of Alliance for School Choice, a 501(c)(3) conservative 501(c)(3) non-profit group that promotes the school privatization agenda via the American Legislative Exchange Council (ALEC) and other avenues. It is affiliated with the 501(c)(4) advocacy group the American Federation for Children.[1] He is also on the Board of Directors of Jeb Bush's Foundation for Excellence in Education. He is also a trustee of the Thacher School,[2] an expensive private coeducational boarding high school in Ojai, California.[3]

Oberndorf and his wife Susan fund the Oberndorf Foundation, based in San Francisco, which has funded the Center for Education Reform, the Foundation for Excellence in Education, the Friedman Foundation for Educational Choice, the George W. Bush Foundation, and the Philanthropy Roundtable, among other organizations.[4]

Oberndorf Enterprises, LLC is a domestic investment corporation headquartered in California founded in February 2011 that is a holding corporation for the Oberndorf family, and William Oberndorf is the Chairman.[5][6] Oberndorf is also a co-founder and has served as Managing Director of SPO Partners & Co., a privately held "hedge fund sponsor" company (it "launches and manages hedge funds for its clients"), since March 1991 (its founding date).[7]

According to BusinessWeek, Oberndorf "is the Chairman of Aggregates USA and Rosewood Hotels & Resorts . . . [and] a Director Emeritus of Plum Creek Timber Co."[7]

Obendorf was formerly Chairman of the Board of Directors of Voyager Learning Company, a private for-profit education company providing curricula that was acquired by Cambium Learning, Inc. (a publicly traded for-profit company that provides education curricula) in 2009. He had been a director since July 1988 and was "Chairman of the Compensation Committee in addition to serving on the Nominating and Governance Committee," according to a former iteration of Voyager's website.[8]

Obendorf was a Director of the publicly-traded electric power company Calpine Corporation in 2011 and 2012 and received $179,996 in total compensation in 2011. He owned 39,317 shares of the company in 2012, according to Forbes.[9] He has also been "a Director of Taft Broadcasting Company and Wometco Cable Television Corporation," according to BusinessWeek.[7]

Political Activity

Oberndorf has donated heavily to political candidates and causes at state and federal levels.

As of September 10, 2013, he had given $5,200 to the United States Senate special election campaign of Democratic Newark, New Jersey Mayor Cory Booker (who as of late August held a large lead in the election to be held October 16, 2013),[10] according to the National Institute on Money in State Politics.[11] Mayor Booker breaks from some of the Democratic party in his support of school vouchers and education privatization, according to Politico.[12]

Oberndorf and his wife Susan have donated over $3.2 million to candidates, third parties, and ballot measures at the state level from 2002 through 2012, according to the National Institute on Money in State Politics.[13] More information about his donations to support or oppose ballot measures is available here.

Oberndorf and his wife gave almost $115,000 to candidates for statewide office and the legislature just in Wisconsin from 2003 through June 2012, according to the Wisconsin Democracy Campaign.[14]

Oberndorf and his wife Susan have donated over $283,000 to candidates, PACs, SuperPACs, and parties from 2008 to 2013, ranging from Republican presidential candidate Mitt Romney, Republican Speaker of the House John Boehner (OH), Republican Senator Lindsey Graham (SC), and Republican PACs and local parties across the country, to Democratic Senator Dianne Feinstein (CA) and Democratic Senator Harry Reid (D), according to the Center for Responsive Politics.[15]

Resources and Articles

Related SourceWatch Articles

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  1. Alliance for School Choice, Leadership, organizational website, accessed September 2013
  2. Foundation for Excellence in Education, William Oberndorf, organizational biography, accessed September 2013.
  3. Thacher School, Thacher at a Glance, school website, accessed September 2013.
  4. Oberndorf Foundation IRS Forms 990, e.g. 2012 Form 990, organizational annual IRS filing, May 13, 2013.
  5. Oberndorf Enterprises LLC, CorporationWiki, accessed September 2013.
  6. Namibia Rare Earths Inc., Namibia Rare Earths Inc. announces new shareholders, corporate press release, April 30, 2013.
  7. 7.0 7.1 7.2 SPO Advisory Corp., Bloomberg BusinessWeek corporate profile, accessed September 2013.
  8. Voyager Learning Company, Board, corporate website, accessed September 19, 2008.
  9. William Obendorf, Forbes executive profile, accessed September 2013.
  10. Brett Logiurato, Cory Booker Has A Huge Lead Over His Tea Party Challenger In The New Jersey Senate Race, Business Insider, August 20, 2013.
  11. National Institute on Money in State Politics, Donor Query: Oberndorf, Bill, Follow The Money state political influence database, accessed September 2013.
  12. Manu Raju, Cory Booker, Liberal Celebrity?, Politico, September 9, 2013.
  13. National Institute on Money in State Politics, Contributors Results: Oberndorf, Follow the Money state political influence database, donations from William and Susan Oberndorf tallied by the Center for Media and Democracy, September 2013.
  14. Wisconsin Democracy Campaign, $10 Million In 10 Years Drives School Agenda: Walker expanding program after millions in backing by voucher supporters, organizational publication, April 15, 2013.
  15. Center for Responsive Politics, Donor Query: Oberndorf, OpenSecrets federal political influence database, donations from Bill and Susan Oberndorf tallied by the Center for Media and Democracy, September 2013.
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