The Wall Street Journal continues to examine big labor’s ability to use coercive forced-union dues money from workers to fund political projects many of their members oppose. The beneficiaries include the American Ireland Fund, the Rev. Al Sharpton and the Gay, Lesbian and Straight Education Network. The Journal reports,
“All have received some of the more than $330 million that America’s two largest teachers unions spent in the past five years on outside causes, political campaigns, lobbying and issue education. The contributions-totaling more than $200 million from the National Education Association and more than $130 million from the American Federation of Teachers-were disclosed in annual reports that unions file with the Labor Department detailing their spending on political activities and advocacy work, as well as separate political-action-committee filings.”
The contributions—totaling more than $200 million from the National Education Association and more than $130 million from the American Federation of Teachers—were disclosed in annual reports that unions file with the Labor Department detailing their spending on political activities and advocacy work, as well as separate political-action-committee filings.
Some of the spending that the two teachers unions identified to the Labor Department as “political and lobbying” activities from fiscal 2007 through fiscal 2011 went to election consultants, voter mobilization and advertising. Additional millions went to PACs that donate almost entirely to Democratic candidates and committees. Dozens of other organizations that promote a range of issues—women’s rights groups, organizations backing African-American, Hispanic and Asian-American civil rights, and think tanks producing pro-union economic studies—also received money, according to a review of the documents by The Wall Street Journal.
Some of the contributions provide indirect political benefit to the unions, by fostering allies among progressive groups. This has helped give teachers widespread political clout on Capitol Hill and in statehouses, and has made them nearly indispensable to the Democratic Party.
Members’ dues underwrite much of the unions’ “political activities,” but not donations to candidates, parties and PACs. Those are funded by voluntary contributions. The NEA, the largest teachers union, with about 3.2 million members, also has a super PAC, which can raise unlimited funds. That super PAC had more than $3 million in cash on hand the end of June.
The AFT doesn’t have a super PAC.
The NEA was the top combined state and federal contributor to 2008 races, with some $45 million, more than 90% of which went to Democratic campaigns, according to the Center for Responsive Politics, a nonpartisan election-finance watchdog. But the teachers and their supporters suffered a setback in Wisconsin in May when they failed to help unseat Republican Gov. Scott Walker, who had mounted an offensive against public-employee unions.