|Back to May Ed Reporter|
|NUMBER 196||THE NEWSPAPER OF EDUCATION RIGHTS||MAY 2002|
|NEA Charged with Misusing Funds|
Landmark Legal Foundation launches complaint with U.S. Labor Department
HERNDON, VA - The public-interest law firm, Landmark Legal Foundation, filed a complaint on April 22 with the U.S. Labor Department charging the National Education Association (NEA) with violations of the federal Labor and Management Reporting and Disclosure Act (LMRDA). Landmark charged the union with concealing its use for political purposes of millions of dollars in member dues, at least since 1994.
"The LMRDA was enacted to ensure that union members could make informed, responsible decisions about their union's leadership and its activities," said Landmark President Mark Levin. "The NEA's leadership spends millions of tax-exempt dollars on political activities every year, in coordination with the Democratic National Committee, yet reports none of it on its Labor Department filings."
The federal disclosure law requires labor unions to report their income and expenditures (on a form called the LM-2) in sufficient detail to give a clear picture of their operations. Landmark analyzed thousands of pages of NEA documents dating back to 1994 and found that, while millions of dollars were spent on recruitment and support of political candidates, "none of these expenditures are specifically reported."
The Wall Street Journal (4-22-02) called the NEA "one of America's great political juggernauts," adding that "from its labor filings not even a diligent union member could figure out just how his cash is being spent on politics."
The WSJ noted that "most egregious of all are [NEA's] 1,800 UniServ directors," who are supposed to oversee collective bargaining but who instead "operate as an army of paid political organizers and lobbyists." An NEA publication "specifically charges the UniServ directors with 'managing all political activities' within their area." Although NEA documents show that the union spent about $40 million on UniServ during the 1996 election year, the WSJ opined that "You'd have no inkling about this from the NEA's labor disclosures."
An editorial in the Washington Times (4-25-02) asserted that Landmark's complaint has "irrefutably demonstrated" . . . that the NEA "repeatedly evaded its legal reporting requirements." The editorial chastised the union for its failure to also report this information to its members, "thus grossly violating both the spirit and letter of the law."
Landmark's complaint shows that during the 1996 Clinton-Gore campaign, top NEA officials attended national Democratic Party steering committee meetings. According to the WSJ, "this committee and its state affiliates gave the NEA and other unions a virtual veto over the party's platform." The NEA also worked with other Democratic Party campaign organizations, the AFL-CIO and Emily's List (a Political Action Committee that helps raise funds to elect pro-abortion Democratic women) in support of Democratic candidates.
The Washington Times asked, "Given the veto power the NEA wields over the [Democratic] party's platform and the union's vast, nationwide, dues-financed army of 1,800 political operatives formally known as 'Uniserv directors,' the Democratic Party has often acted as a wholly-owned subsidiary of the NEA."
Critics familiar with the NEA's political machinations question how the union has managed to "get away" with its activities. The WSJ pointed out that the Labor Department's Office of Labor-Management Standards, which is in charge of oversight of unions' financial disclosures, is "among the only parts of the federal government that the Clinton Administration cut." During the Clinton years, the staff was reduced from 325 full-time employees to 260. In his budget request for next year, President Bush is asking for an additional $3.4 million to pay for 40 new full-time workers to help ensure reporting compliance.
In both 2000 and 2001, the Landmark Legal Foundation filed complaints against the NEA with the IRS and the Federal Election Commission (FEC), charging that NEA's unreported political expenditures and activities violate federal tax and election laws. (See Education Reporter, August 2000.)