Auditing the NEA

The National Education Association, one of the strongest forces in Democratic politics, claims to make no political expenditures. The IRS is auditing the union to check on that claim. The AP reports:

The IRS is auditing the nation’s largest teachers union, scrutinizing an organization that works energetically to elect candidates but files tax returns reporting zero political expenditures from member dues.

. . . The NEA has tax-exempt status as a union but must report political expenses “direct and indirect” on its tax return. Some of those expenses could be considered taxable by the IRS. It defines a political expense as “one intended to influence the selection, nomination, election or appointment of anyone to a federal, state, or local public office.”

The Associated Press, which first reported on the NEA’s tax returns three years ago, has reviewed the NEA’s filings from years 1993 through 1999 and hundreds of pages of internal NEA documents. The records showed the 2.7 million-member union spent millions of dollars to help elect pro-education candidates, produce political training guides and gather teachers’ voting records.

A July 1999 strategic plan, for instance, stated the union budgeted $4.9 million for the 2000 election for such things as “organizational partnerships with political parties, campaign committees and political organizations.”

Part of the money, the document said, would be spent on a “national political strategy” which involved “candidate recruitment, independent expenditures, early voting, and vote-by-mail programs in order to strengthen support for pro-public education candidates and ballot measures.”

The NEA survived an audit 10 years ago. This time the conservative Landmark Legal Foundation filed a complaint.

About Joanne


  1. You keep introducing me to these conservative watchdog groups that have done such a great job the last few years at demonizing unions, environmentalists, Democrats and the like. They don’t say who they are on their web page. Perhaps they are financed by one of the 400 Americans who is getting an $8.5 million reduction in tax payments this year courtesy of Bush’s second tax cut. I love that people who outspend the world in raising money for their causes spend their time trying to undercut low-paid teachers who have no real economic clout in these political circles. And, by God, having teachers support public education is pretty dangerous stuff. Who knows? The next thing they’ll want is clear air and clean water and safe food. That will certainly end the Republic as we know it.

  2. Insufficiently Sensitive says:

    It was interesting to hear NPR going on about undeclared campaign contributions this evening. Oh, it was a bad thing indeed, some horrible Republicans in Texas had contributed to organizational tomfoolery quite like the NEA example here.

    The extent of their sinful contributions was about half a million dollars, which left the earnest preachers of NPR just shocked at this despicable behavior. Whereas the NEA slush funds dwarf that half million in magnitude, and directly contradict the political wishes of a significant fraction of their dues-paying members. Come on, NPR, where’s the outrage?

    Brother John, above, thinks that “having teachers support public education is pretty dangerous stuff”. Would that they WERE supporting education. But they’re far more devoted to the public trough and work rules and one-party rule (NOT Republican) than they are to the three Rs. And the one party that runs NPR goes kiyoodling after some cheap Texans in righteous indignation. They aint no justice in this world.

  3. Ken Summers says:

    John, check the numbers. Big money contributions to Democrats dwarf those to Republicans.

  4. I love how the AP says the NEA was giving the money to “pro-education candidates”.

    Could somebody point me to an “anti-education candidate”? Let’s get some intellectual honesty in our reporting here: the NEA was contributing money to liberal candidates who will carry their water.

  5. John,

    Noone begrudges teachers pooling their resources to influence politics. However, the NEA has likely violated the law by doing so without properly reporting such expenditures and allowing their members to opt out. You may like the idea of forcing rank-and-file teachers’ union members to make political contributions to support the political agenda of union leaders, but it is against the law. Feel free to lobby to change the law. Until then, however, quit playing the poor victim card.

  6. jeff wright says:

    Given routine media reports about teacher union donations to this and that politician, that the NEA reports no political expenditures is amazing. I’m no tax attorney, but I know the NEA has tons of them, so clearly they think they have a legal basis for filing returns the way they do. If they do, then the law is screwed up. If they don’t, they should hang. A tax cheat is a tax cheat.

    John writes that teachers have no real economic clout in political circles. Well, John must not be a Californian. We just recalled a governor who was owned lock-stock-and-barrel by the teachers’ unions (among others).

    I’ve got no problem with teachers attempting to influence legislative matters. It’s the American way. But legal is nice. Example for the children and all that.

  7. Jack Tanner says:

    I love the pretzel twist logic where requiring a group to comply with IRS regulations is ‘demonizing’ them. Maybe I should try that the next time I get audited.

  8. Ah, the NEA is my favorite organization…but of topic for a second: At this time of year, it is easy to become depressed. Look around you. There are many who need a helping hand, or maybe, just a smile and a bright ‘hello.’ Then, look at yourself. Surely there are many things about your life, for which you can be thankful: Be thankful!

    Happy Thanksgiving to all!

  9. From what I understand, my dues do not go to campaign contributions. However, if I contribute to PAC, that is what PAC is for, campaiging.

    I did a search for “PAC contribution NEA” and found this good Q&A site from MI. I’m guessing that is how the NEA manages to keep its union dues out from this kind of auditing.