- The Washington Times - Tuesday, September 9, 2003

Throughout the past decade, the National Education Association (NEA), the nation’s largest teachers’ union, has spent tens of millions of dollars from members’ tax-exempt dues fighting the Democratic Party’s political battles and promoting the election of Democrats. As the Landmark Legal Foundation, a public-interest law firm, has argued in complaints filed with the Internal Revenue Service, the Federal Election Commission and the Department of Labor, these NEA expenditures, which are above and beyond the legal contributions from the union’s political action committee, have been spent in violation of several federal laws.

Mark Levin, president of Landmark, has never questioned the NEA’s right to spend its members’ dues on political matters. “They’re free to do it,” he has often said, adding, “they just have to pay taxes on it.” In fact, however, in tax returns filed with the IRS covering the union’s activity since at least 1994, the NEA has insisted that it has made zero expenditures from its general revenues on political matters for which it would be required, under IRS rules and federal law, to pay taxes. Last week, Landmark provided a step-by-step road map to the Criminal Investigation Division of the IRS and to the criminal and tax divisions of the Justice Department. Based on the voluminous evidence in these documents, Landmark formally requested that both the IRS and the Justice Department begin a criminal investigation of the NEA’s political operations that are illegally funded by the tax-exempt dues payments of its members. Those investigations need to be undertaken at once.

For tax purposes, the IRS has made very clear what it considers to be a political expenditure, which it defines as “one intended to influence the selection, nomination, election or appointment of anyone to a federal, state or local public office or office in a political organization or the election of presidential or vice presidential electors.” The IRS has made clear that these expenditures include in-kind contributions, such as the salaries of union employees dispatched to work on campaigns and other political matters.

Yet, the NEA refuses to acknowledge the political nature of any of the more than $75 million it spends annually on the aggressively political operations of its 1,800-member UniServ staff, which ostensibly negotiates union contracts. According to NEA documents, UniServ directors are required to engage in “developing and/or executing local association political action.” These budget documents reveal that the union spent more than $300,000 educating and training affiliates in order to “increase their capacity and success in political campaigns.” The NEA’s Strategic Plan and Budget allocated $1,993,735 for a “coordinated state-specific campaign developed and implemented to elect bipartisan pro-public education candidates in the 2000 general election.” These expenditures, none of which were reported to the IRS as political spending, represent the tip of NEA’s political iceberg — a fact that will be quickly confirmed by reviewing Landmark’s numerous persuasively argued complaints (www.landmarklegal.org).

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