- The Washington Times - Wednesday, March 20, 2002

With the assistance of a dozen or so Republicans, Senate Majority Leader Tom Daschle figures that he has the 60 votes necessary to defeat the all-night filibuster expected to be waged by Sens. Mitch McConnell of Kentucky and Phil Gramm of Texas. So, Mr. Daschle plans to have his chamber vote on a verbatim measure of the equally odious House-passed Shays-Meehan campaign-finance bill.

One major feature of Shays-Meehan is a ban on soft money donated to national party committees by individuals, corporations and labor unions. Banning soft money will increase the vastly disproportionate advantages the Democrats realize from Big Labor bosses, who regularly plunder the paychecks of their members for union dues that are spent on behalf of the Democratic Party. No union practices this immoral and probably illegal scheme more pervasively than the National Education Association (NEA).

The NEA conducts its Democratic-support operation through its so-called UniServ staff, which is ostensibly responsible for collective bargaining. The Landmark Legal Foundation has overwhelmingly documented the improper political role played by the 1,800 UniServ directors in the complaints it has filed with the IRS in 2000 and 2001 (see www.landmarklegal.org). Landmark demonstrates that the NEA and its state chapters have consistently violated their tax-exempt status by persistently engaging in politics.

Field representatives of UniServ, whose budget from the national chapter exceeded $75 million for 1999-2000, operate in every state in the nation. Altogether, there are 1,800 UniServ directors, whose duties include acting as paid political organizers for the Democratic Party. The NEA specifically requires them to engage in "developing and/or executing local association political action." They are also responsible for training union political-action-committee (PAC) representatives. While the NEA told the IRS in its filings for 1994 and 1995 that it did not spend a single dime on "political expenditures, direct or indirect," Landmark found that the NEA itself reported that it spent more than $300,000 educating and training affiliates in order to "increase their capacity and success in political campaigns."

Not surprisingly, virtually all of these affiliates, which are also required to file annual reports with the IRS, have denied making any "political expenditures, direct or indirect." The Heritage Foundation has been examining NEA's state chapters, which are required by law to provide their IRS filings upon request. So far, only 24 have provided this information. Within that group, Heritage has found that the average annual UniServ expenditure exceeds $600,000, dwarfing reported PAC contributions, which averaged less than $18,000. Meanwhile, collective-bargaining expenses have been minuscule, especially relative to the total dues extracted from members.

Far from leveling the political playing field by prohibiting both corporations and unions from contributing soft money, campaign-finance "reform" will only magnify the impact of the undisclosed, and probably illegal, benefits Democrats receive from captive union treasuries, as the shenanigans throughout the NEA so convincingly confirm.

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