NEA Expects to Spend $25 Million on State Political Campaigns
posted at 4:16 pm on July 23, 2012 by Mike Antonucci
Each year, each member of the National Education Association contributes $20 to two segregated funds. Eight dollars goes to the Media Fund, which uses it for issue advertising and promotion both nationally and in the form of grants to state affiliates. Twelve dollars is deposited into the Ballot Measures/Legislative Crises Fund, which contributes to statewide ballot initiative campaigns in states that have them, and legislative advocacy in states that don’t. The BMLC fund is the primary source of NEA’s political campaign spending at the state level.
The union created the fund in 2000, and is required to annually report its status to NEA convention delegates. In the good old days, that meant not only reporting the fund balance, but the amount and destination of each grant to a state affiliate. At some point in 2009, the powers-that-be at NEA came to the conclusion that this was more information than they wanted to be known, so they reduced the report to the total amount disbursed and the total number of affiliates to receive the cash, without identifying them.
This year the union was even cagier than usual. The fund report was dated May 24, and listed the fund balance at $19,504,926. What the delegates probably didn’t know – and the members they represent certainly don’t know – is that the night before the convention opened the NEA board of directors met and voted to allocate $13 million of that balance, and another $4 million from the 2012-13 money, to a handful of state affiliate campaigns. The union expects to have spent $25 million out of an available $29 million by this time next year.
A total of $9 million went to five state affiliates – California Teachers Association, Florida Education Association, Idaho Education Association, Michigan Education Association and Ohio Education Association. I don’t have the individual breakdowns, except that CTA received $5 million. CTA deposited that money, and an additional $7.5 million from its own ballot initiative fund, into its issues PAC. We can expect the vast bulk of this money to be spent on supporting Proposition 30 – the governor’s tax increase – and defeating Proposition 32, which would prohibit the use of payroll-deducted funds for political purposes.
A total of $8 million was allocated to “behind the wall” campaigns in the states. Internal NEA documents describe them this way:
The Independent Campaigns Unit consults with state affiliates on setting up “behind-the-wall” programs involving communication to the public around candidates or issues and connecting to other organizations and individuals to help proactively position affiliates as part of a state’s progressive infrastructure to elect pro-public education candidates and pass pro-public education/pro-labor policies.
If NEA’s projected membership losses for 2012-13 come to pass, the union will have about $1.5 million less in the BMLC fund than it would otherwise. But the sums of money involved are so enormous it’s hard to imagine the loss will have a decisive detrimental effect in any campaign.