July 12, 2000
While Americans are watching fireworks to celebrate Independence
Day, the 10,000+ representatives of the country's most powerful
political pressure group, the National Education Association (NEA), are
meeting in the Windy City to approve their usual radical policies and
resolutions. But the real NEA fireworks are being exploded in
Washington, D.C., where the Landmark Legal Foundation has filed
complaints with the Internal Revenue Service and the Federal Election
Both Houses of Congress just passed a law to require full
disclosure of the notorious Section 527 funds, which allow tax-exempt
unreported funds to be spent for political activities in campaigns.
But 527 monies are a drop in the bucket compared to the massive
unreported tax-exempt political money spent by the NEA.
Landmark's legal complaints, copiously documented with dozens of
exhibits from the NEA's own publications, charge that "the NEA is
spending substantial general operating funds on taxable political
activities, which it has not reported on its tax returns for the last
several years." The NEA's Forms 990 show that, at least since 1994,
the NEA has entered a big zero in answer to question 81a demanding "the
amount of political expenditures, direct or indirect."
Form 990 instructions make clear that "a political expenditure is
one intended to influence the selection, nomination, election, or
appointment" of any public official. "Expenditure" includes not only
direct contributions, but loans, in-kind support, "or anything of
value" such as personnel, equipment or supplies.
The other exhibits filed by Landmark consist of NEA publications
that effectively prove that, out of its general association dues, the
NEA has been doing all of the above to elect its chosen candidates, but
not reporting its expenditures as the law requires. The NEA has two
powerful incentives to avoid filling in line 81a: monies reported on
this line are taxable, and NEA members (who may be up to half
Republican) would find out that their dues money is being spent to
elect Clinton-Gore-type candidates and would demand a refund, which
they are entitled to under the Supreme Court's Beck decision.
This expenditure of NEA membership money on politics is in
addition to the declared political money spent by the NEA's Political
Action Committee, NEA-PAC, one of the largest and most powerful PACs
operating today, with a budget in excess of $6 million. The NEA also
has dozens of state and local PACs.
Landmark's exhibits include the NEA's series of "how to" handbooks
to train its members in "practical politics." The NEA's political
action manual instructs members how to "elect pro-education candidates
at the local, state and national levels" so they can "more easily pass
or defeat legislative proposals."
The NEA handbook instructs members in "integrating the structure"
of the NEA with its various PACs by making sure that all the PACs have
a majority of NEA board members to control how funds are spent.
Landmark's exhibits include the NEA's "Strategic Plan and Budget."
This document reveals the extraordinary sums of money spent annually on
politics from NEA dues: $350,000 for "cyberspace advocacy systems ...
in support of ... candidates at the state and federal level," $386,000
for "partnerships with political parties, campaign committees, and
political organizations," $540,000 for "candidate recruitment ... early
voting, and vote-by-mail programs in order to strengthen support for
pro-public education candidates," $350,000 for "training programs ...
to support the election of pro-public education candidates," $872,000
to elect "pro-education candidates," $530,000 for "political data
systems" to assist state political programs.
Much of the NEA's political spending is concealed under
euphemisms: $2,517,701 was spent on "Government Relations programs
assistance to state affiliates" for "candidate recruitment and
recommendation; campaign staff and support." An additional $792,422
was spent to "secure member support for Association-endorsed
The NEA's UniServ program, with a budget of a whopping $76.4
million for 1999-2000, enables the NEA to select, train and fund at
least one employee of each NEA affiliate, called a UniServ director, in
every congressional district and linked to the NEA's 13,000 local
affiliates. This UniServ director manages the NEA staff dispatched to
assist with phone banks, door-to-door canvassing, absentee vote
programs, media development, and polling and consulting services to
elect NEA-endorsed candidates.
This NEA army of paid political organizers and lobbyists far
exceeds the combined staff of the Republican and Democratic national
committees. In addition, the NEA exercises uncommon leverage over the
Democratic Party, controlling at least ten percent of the delegates to
the Democratic National Convention.
At last year's NEA convention, NEA president Bob Chase
congratulated NEA members for their role in congressional elections.
"We supported pro-public education stalwarts in the Democratic Party --
the folks who have helped Bill Clinton," he said.
Chase made no secret of the NEA's special campaign to defeat
Senators Al D'Amato (R-NY) and Lauch Faircloth (R-NC). Chase boasted,
"Jesse Helms, you're next!"
"Campaign finance reform" is a sham unless it deals with the
unreported politicking of the NEA.
Further reading about the NEA