WASHINGTON, D.C. – I was recently provided with a partial summary of the ballot initiative spending of the National Education Association and its state affiliates over the last five years.
The figures were substantial, to say the least. A few years ago, I attempted to create a comprehensive accounting of the unions’ political campaign spending, but concentrated on a single election cycle. Using the data compiled by the National Institute on Money in State Politics, I decided to check on NEA’s total direct campaign spending since 2000, the year NEA created its Ballot Measure/Legislative Crises Fund and assessed each member to fill its coffers.
NEA and its state affiliates spent more than $310 million in direct contributions on political campaigns for candidates and issues in that 12-year period. That figure does not include independent expenditures or issue advertising. Almost $53.4 million came from NEA national headquarters, while another $257.1 million was spent by affiliates.
More than 47.3 percent of that total – almost $147 million – was spent in California or on behalf of California ballot measures and candidates.
The union spent more than $92.3 million on candidates and party committees. About 86.3% of those were Democrat-affiliated, and 11.5% were Republican-affiliated. The rest were nonpartisan or third-party candidates. About $60.9 million went to candidates alone, 66.3% of whom were incumbents and 14.2% challengers. The rest were open seats. Candidates backed financially by NEA and its affiliates won 73.2% of the time.
NIMSP data on ballot initiative spending only goes back as far as 2004, and while I have NEA national expenditures for the previous four years, I don’t have figures for every state affiliate. Suffice to say additional millions were spent on ballot measures from 2000-04, but we can’t adequately account for it all.
NEA and its affiliates spent almost $218.1 million on ballot initiatives alone from 2004 to 2012. Of the ten measures that drew that most spending by the union, eight were in California. The other two were in Ohio in 2011 and Oregon in 2008.
The National Education Association and its state affiliates are a giant political machine in perpetual motion. That machine is fueled with the dues and PAC contributions of 3 million public school employees and retirees. We would do well to keep that in mind as we debate the relative merits of things like Common Core or teacher evaluation systems and their outlooks for success.
Authored by Mike Antonucci – EIAonline