By Brandon Moseley
Alabama Political Reporter
The House Committee on Oversight and Government Reform has held hearing about possibly inappropriate fundraising efforts that the National Education Association (NEA) and its Alabama affiliate, the Alabama Education Association (AEA), have conducted to fund their political activities.
Claire Waites is a teacher in Baldwin County that alleges that AEA/NEA took money from her travel expense account to the NEA national convention to give to The NEA Fund for Children and Public Education against her will and refused to reimburse the funds to her. Often promoted like it is a charity, the NEA “Children’s Fund” is actually a Political Action Committee (PAC) that funds various (usually far left) candidates running for office. It is illegal for unions to use union dues for political purposes. Unions get around this by creating Political Action Committees (PACs) and encouraging union members to donate to the PAC often through regular payroll deductions. Political contributions are never mandatory for workers or union members and it is illegal to force union members or other employees to donate to political causes against their will. The NEA Fund for Children and Public Education and AEA’s own A-Vote are PACs and members have a legal right not to contribute to the PAC if they so choose. In the Waites case, the testimony alleges that the money was essentially “stolen” from delegates travel accounts and the NEA/AEA reportedly has never reimbursed Ms. Waites even though she demanded her money from various levels of NEA/AEA leadership. The money was presumably used to fund the campaigns of Sen. John Kerry (D) from Massachusetts and Sen. Barack H. Obama (D) from Illinois in their campaigns for President of the United States.
The U.S. House Committee on Oversight and Government Reform chaired by Darrell Issa, (R) from California, is investigating this and other allegations of inappropriate and illegal coercive fundraising tactics by NEA/AEA and other unions. The mission statement on their website is: “This is the United States. Every American worker should have the freedom to choose whether or not to be politically active. Every American worker should have the freedom to choose whether or not to donate to their union’s political agenda. And every American worker has a right to know how their dues are spent. Because forced political contributions and secret special interest spending have a corrupting effect on our democracy. We are committed to delivering workplace freedom and fairness for all Americans – Republicans, Democrats, everyone.”
On Wednesday Chairman Darrell Issa sent letters to both Dot Strickland (President of the AEA) and Dennis Van Roekel (President of the NEA) requesting that both unions answer a series of questions that the Committee has about the fundraising activities and methods for the NEA Fund for Children and Public Education. The Committee requested that both unions provide all documents that they have in their possession about such fundraising activities from Jan 1, 2009 to the present.
On January 1, 2009 Claire Waites filed a complaint with the Federal Election Commission (FEC) regarding her allegedly involuntary contribution to the NEA Fund for Children and Public Education. That case was dismissed by the FEC. Chairman Issa sent a letter to FEC Chairwoman Caroline Hunter asking that the FEC explain their decision to dismiss the complaint and asked that the federal agency provide all documents that they had about NEA/AEA conduct in the Claire Waites case and their decision not to investigate further. The NEA Children’s fund spent more than $8.9 million on campaigns for federal offices in the 2010 election cycle.
To read more about the Committee’s efforts to protect workers from union coercion to raise money for PACs and other political campaigns or to read all three letters by Darrell Issa and Ms. Waites testimony go to: