Green Room

NEA’s Legacy: $310 Million in Direct Campaign Spending Since 2000

posted at 6:33 pm on March 25, 2013 by

A few years ago, I attempted to create a comprehensive accounting of the National Education Association’s 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.

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. It’s academic to debate the relative merits of various education reforms without accounting for the unions’ vast political power.

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As a point of comparison, how does this compare to the NRA during the same time period?

TheLoudTalker on March 25, 2013 at 6:37 PM

The NRA spent about $3 million on political campaigns from 2003-2012. NRA’s spending is focused on lobbying, rather than elections.

Mike Antonucci on March 25, 2013 at 6:51 PM

Does that come down to less than ten bucks per year per member?

FOWG1 on March 25, 2013 at 8:23 PM

I don’t know if this varies by state, but my mom (who is a public school teacher) is allowed to opt out of the political/lobbying part of her dues, which she does because the NEA obviously supports mostly Democrats.

That portion is around $10 a year if I remember right. That lines up decently well, as direct campaign spending of $310 million over 12 years comes out to around $26 million a year. 3.2 million members with around $10 coming from each of them would be $32 million a year. I’m guessing that free will donations at a minimum make up for the people like my mom who opt out.

LukeinNE on March 25, 2013 at 9:46 PM

I’m a school bus driver in Chandler, AZ.
Yesterday thousands of fellow school employees were paid by tax dollars to listen to Superintendent Camille Casteel give a 40 minute political speech.
There is no other way to describe it.
The theme of the speech: You’d better campaign for the override election in November. Your raise depends on it.
She was given a standing ovation.
After the political speech, we were treated to about 30 NEA members singing a politicized version of the old song We’re Not Gonna Take It (they’re angry because an override was just defeated last November).

itsnotaboutme on March 26, 2013 at 7:41 AM

…Dr Casteel repeatedly said “conservative” is a synonym for “cheap.”

In this Obama economy, most people are earning less & facing higher costs. Yet government feels entitled to earn more.

“But, but, the children need a good education!”

Dr. Casteel bragged that our school district is performing very well, earning a high rating, despite the budget freeze. So the district has become more efficient. That’s a good thing.

itsnotaboutme on March 26, 2013 at 7:57 AM


Good Lt on March 26, 2013 at 10:03 AM

As a point of comparison, how does this compare to the NRA during the same time period?

TheLoudTalker on March 25, 2013 at 6:37 PM

I don’t think it is a good point of comparison. The NRA doesn’t get its funding from tax dollars. The NEA isn’t the only shell game the govt uses to funnel tax dollars into the democrat party.

clement on March 26, 2013 at 11:24 AM

Money well spent on the kids huh…..

crosshugger on March 26, 2013 at 1:17 PM