- The Washington Times - Monday, September 2, 2002

Tomorrow, children throughout America will be returning to school, and teachers will be looking for a timely civics topic. Here's a suggestion: Why not give the students a real-time civics lesson demonstrating how the National Education Association (NEA) routinely wields its raw political power within the Democratic Party and throughout the political landscape, frequently at odds with legal and regulatory requirements?
Indeed, the NEA offers a textbook example of how Big Labor bosses work hand in glove with Democratic politicians. Intentionally and almost certainly illegally, the NEA bosses and other Big Labor leaders and their Democratic vassals keep the rank-and-file members ignorant of the political use of millions and millions of dollars forcibly extracted form their paychecks in the form of compulsory union dues. In terms of any lessons on democracy that teachers might impart to their students from this anti-Jeffersonian travesty, they might emphasize how members of union households have given an average of 36 percent of their votes to Republican House candidates since 1980.
As the public-interest law firm Landmark Legal Foundation has detailed in complaints filed with the IRS, the Federal Election Commission and the Department of Labor, the NEA has willfully circumvented or blatantly ignored legal restrictions on its political activity. (The evidence is available at www.landmarklegal.org.)
Time and again, the NEA has refused to comply with clearly outlined disclosure requirements. Despite internal NEA documents that minutely detail how the NEA uses general treasury funds to augment the impact of its political action committees, the NEA refuses to report to the IRS the taxable "political expenditures, direct or indirect" from its general treasury. In failing to do so, the NEA also avoids paying legally required taxes on these political expenditures. Thus, it has shamelessly exploited its 501(c)(5) tax-exempt status. Moreover, at least since 1994, the NEA has also failed to disclose to Labor the millions of dollars the union spends on its pervasive political operations.
The Democratic Party is the direct beneficiary of the NEA's dues-financed army of 1,800 political operatives, formally known as UniServ directors. So, Democrats have a keen interest in protecting the status quo. That undoubtedly explains why the Clinton administration slashed an estimated 40 percent of the budget of the Office of Labor Management Standards, which is responsible for auditing the reports of labor unions. As a result, union audits declined by 70 percent during the 1990s.
The Bush administration attempted to address the shortcomings by seeking an additional $3.4 million appropriation in Labor's fiscal 2003 budget. Among other things, it would have funded 37 full-time positions to partially rebuild the investigative ranks, which were slashed by more than 25 percent in the previous administration.
The chairman of the Senate Appropriations Committee's panel on labor, health and human services, and education immediately went into action to block the new positions. "The committee has been informed that the Department of Labor is considering changes in the longstanding financial reporting requirements imposed on labor unions," Sen. Tom Harkin, Iowa Democrat, intoned in a committee report.
Hilariously, Mr. Harkin asserted that the new requirements would "duplicate information unions must already report to their members." In fact, the new standards would merely seek to force unions to report information they already are legally required to report but have audaciously refused to disclose largely in an attempt to keep that information from their own memberships, more than a third of whom vote for Republicans. Also, Mr. Harkin bemoaned that "the financial burden of collecting this duplicative information could divert members' dues." What he really meant to say is this: If unions are finally forced to disclose the hundreds of millions of dollars they spend from their general treasuries on behalf of the Democratic Party each two-year election cycle, such disclosure would far more likely divert members' dues from Democratic coffers.
Mr. Harkin's solution? "The Committee directs the Secretary of Labor," he writes in his report, "not to revise, amend or change in any way, whether by rulemaking or otherwise, the reporting requirements imposed on labor unions." That represents the exercise of raw political power.
Now, that is a civics lesson that will instruct students about the anti-democratic actions of special interests.

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