- The Washington Times - Monday, November 24, 2003

The Internal Revenue Service is investigating accusations that the National Education Association spent millions of dollars in members’ dues on unreported political activities.

NEA President Ray Weaver confirmed the IRS probe — sparked by accusations from a Virginia-based watchdog group — Sunday during an interview in a Fox News Channel special called “Breaking Point: Education in America.”

“In September, the IRS indicated that they were coming in,” Mr. Weaver said. “When they come in, we feel confident that they will go out the same way they did in 1999, and that is having the NEA have a clean bill of health.”

The Landmark Legal Foundation, a public-interest law firm in Herndon, has argued in complaints filed with the IRS, the Federal Election Commission and the Department of Labor that the NEA illegally spent tens of millions of dollars over the past decade from its members’ tax-exempt dues fighting the Democratic Party’s political battles and promoting the election of Democrats.

The foundation has charged that the NEA’s political expenditures have not been reported on the union’s tax returns over the past several years. Landmark filed its first complaint against the NEA in 2000.

“I think Mr. Weaver’s confidence in the NEA getting a clean bill of health may be a case of whistling through a graveyard,” said Mark R. Levin, Landmark president. “We provided the IRS with a chapter-and-verse road map into the union’s political expenditures.

“It appears that the NEA may finally be called to account for its failure to tell the government — and its members — how much it is spending on politics,” Mr. Levin said.

In a lawsuit filed in April 2002, Landmark said the NEA concealed its use of millions of dollars in tax-exempt teachers’ dues and fees for political activities, primarily for Democratic candidates and causes, and failed to report to its 2.7 million members tax-exempt revenue spent to recruit and support candidates running for local, state and federal elective office since at least 1994.

According to the suit, most of the expenditures were coordinated with the Democratic National Committee (DNC), other Democratic Party campaign organizations, the AFL-CIO, and Emily’s List, the nationwide network of political donors helping to elect pro-choice Democratic women.

The suit said the expenditures violate a federal law that requires labor unions to report their revenues and expenditures annually — in enough detail to accurately reflect the union’s operations.

The NEA has consistently labeled the accusations “baseless,” saying the organization had been “very careful, very meticulous” in its expenditure of union funds and that it had complied with federal rules and procedures.

But, according to Landmark officials, NEA’s failure to report the expenditures makes it impossible for its members to determine the full extent of the union’s political activities. Landmark said a union and its leaders could be held liable for substantial civil and criminal penalties for violating the labor law.

“The law was enacted to ensure that union members could make informed, responsible decisions about their union’s leadership and its activities,” Mr. Levin said. “The NEA’s leadership spends millions of tax-exempt dollars on political activities every year, in coordination with the DNC, yet reports none of it on its Labor Department filings.”

In its IRS complaint, Landmark also accused the NEA and its state chapters of violating their tax-exempt status consistently by engaging in politics and campaign coordination activities with the DNC.

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