- The Washington Times - Thursday, November 14, 2002

The political action committees (PACs) of the National Education Association (NEA) and the American Federation of Teachers (AFT) cumulatively contributed more than $2.5 million to Democratic congressional candidates through Oct. 21, according to the Center for Responsive Politics. That made the teachers PACs the biggest contributors to Democratic candidates. But a recent analysis by the Landmark Legal Foundation virtually proves that the hard-money contributions from teachers PACs represent the veritable tip of the iceberg for political spending by public school educators. Moreover, as Landmark meticulously documents, the state affiliates of the NEA seem to have "no more respect for federal law than their national union."

As readers of this page know, Landmark has been conducting its NEA Accountability Project over the past five years by focusing on the highly questionable and almost certainly illegally financed political activities of the NEA's national branch. In complaints filed with the IRS, the Federal Election Commission (FEC) and the Department of Labor, Landmark has comprehensively demonstrated that the NEA, since at least 1994, has used literally millions of dollars in tax-exempt dues payments to finance wide-ranging political activities. By law, they must be underwritten by taxable funds. Yet, the NEA has repeatedly declared in documents filed with the IRS that not a dime of its members' dues has been used for political activity. Often relying on internal NEA documents, Landmark has demonstrated how ludicrous such declarations are.

Now, it appears that the state affiliates are every bit as brazen. "In state after state throughout this last election cycle," Landmark President Mark R. Levin asserts, his organization's investigation has found that "NEA affiliates appear to have loaned union employees to run and work in campaigns [and] used tax-exempt members' dues to post political advertising on Web sites in support of specific candidates, hold candidate rallies and hand out campaign literature and signs." Only a few of these affiliates seemed to have made any effort to segregate these taxable political expenditures from their tax-exempt general revenues.

The Florida Education Association's (FEA) control of Democratic gubernatorial candidate Bill McBride was so total that it supplied his general campaign with its campaign manager and spokesman. The Fort Lauderdale Sun-Sentinel reported that the FEA "invested no less than $1.5 million of member dues into a month-long TV campaign on McBride's behalf," while dispatching "union workers [who] served as 'liaisons' between local teachers and [McBrides] campaign." The FEA also helped to staff a phone-banking operation to encourage McBride supporters to vote.

In a Michigan congressional race, the New York Times reported that the NEA Washington office sent "a seasoned political strategist" to "strengthen the [Democratic] campaign in the last weeks before the election."

The Boston Teachers Union, the Hawaii State Teachers Association and the Maine Education Association all sponsored Democratic rallies featuring Bill Clinton. Meanwhile, the public Web sites of teachers unions in Florida, Georgia, Hawaii, Maryland, Massachusetts, Nebraska, Maine, Ohio, Oregon and other states routinely disseminated information endorsing Democratic candidates.

Federal tax, election and labor-reporting laws not only require unions to reveal the political expenditures that are financed with members' dues money; they also require the unions to pay taxes on those political funds. Landmark has documented how the NEA has repeatedly violated these requirements, and now it has offered evidence implicating numerous NEA state affiliates. It is long past the time for the IRS, the FEC and the U.S. Department of Labor to investigate for possible violations of law.

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