By Brandon Moseley
Alabama Political Reporter
On February 8th 2012 of this year, Baldwin County Teacher Claire Waites testified to the U.S. House Committee on Oversight and Government Reform about alleged improper conduct by the Alabama Education Association (AEA) in their efforts to raise funds for Democratic Party aligned Political Action Committees. Ms. Waites testimony was so compelling and the alleged conduct by the AEA so egregious that Committee Chairman Darrell Issa has referred the matter to the Federal Election Commission and has asked for an investigation into possible violations of federal law.
Claire Waites testified, “In 2004 and again in 2008 I was nominated and elected by my colleagues as a delegate to the national convention of the NEA. The NEA refers to its convention as its Representative Assembly (RA).” “The president of the local at the time, Pat Siano, briefed us on what was expected of us. During this briefing, she told us about the NEA Children’s Fund. The accurate name for the fund is The NEA Fund for Children and Public Education. President Siano told us that we were all expected to contribute to this fund and that this contribution requirement was “nonnegotiable.”” “Every day during that meeting, we were told by the Alabama NEA President to contribute to the Children’s Fund.”
Ms. Waites continued, “Oddly, we were even told specifically how to contribute. We were instructed that we must make two different payments. In the beginning I was puzzled by the fact we had to maketwo different payments and that neither of the payments were tax deductible. After all, it was a charity or so I thought at the time. It certainly sounded like a charity, and I even speculated on what they might use the money for, classroom grants, and underprivileged children.” “Instead of making the contribution right away, I procrastinated for several days because my money was very tight. Every morning the Alabama NEA president would preach to us that we (Alabama NEA) needed to be 100% supporters of the Children’s Fund. I soon began to fear they would know I was the only hold out especially since my local NEA President, Pat Siano, kept telling us to donate. I eventually donated the money with misgivings, and consoled myself with the fact it was for children.”
Later that day, Ms. Waites found out that the Children’s Fund was not a required contribution because it is a political contribution. “I cannot tell you the rush that came over me at that time. It was a mixture of anger and stupidity. I felt as though I had been totally duped. To add insult to injury, later that afternoon, then NEA President, Reg Weaver announced the NEA would be endorsing John Kerry for President. President Weaver went on to announce the NEA Children’s Fund had raised a large amount of money; and that, too would go to our friend in education, John Kerry. I felt a wave of illness come over me like none I have ever felt before. These who were supposed to be my people; duped me into donating to a candidate I was voting against.”
In 2008, Ms. Waites was again “nominated and elected to attend the NEA National Convention. I recounted in my mind what had happened to me in 2004 so that I would be strong and stand up to the powers that be and skip the Children’s fund contribution. I was not going to repeat the same mistake!”
Ms. Waites continued, “I arrived the next day to meet Dr. Jeanne Fox, an administrator in my school whom was also a delegate. The Baldwin County NEA President in 2008 was Saadia Hunter. Dr. Fox and I were in phone contact with President Hunter. Hunter told Dr. Fox that she had made contributions to the Children’s Fund on behalf of Dr. Fox and me using the money Hunter had withheld from our travel money provided by the local. Delegates are given 80% of their travel money up front and are given the rest on the last day of the NEA Convention if they were on the convention floor 80% of the time.”
Ms. Waites said, “I was furious about this, Dr. Fox handed me the phone and I told Ms. Hunter she had no right to do that. She could not make a political contribution in my name under any circumstances. She replied that it was not a political contribution, this was a contribution to a children’s fund.” Ms. Waites explained that the Children’s Fund was actually a PAC “and that I did not want to contribute. I continued to tell her I thought making an involuntary contribution in my name could be illegal.” “President Hunter replied that she did not think I was correct in my statements and would have to confer with Dr. Joe Reed, the Alabama NEA leader, about it and get back with me. President Hunter said she would see about getting my money back.”
Ms. Waites testified that she personally met with Alabama’s President Peggy Mobley and demanded her money back. “I explained to her my Children’s fund contribution was made without my permission and I wanted my money back. She refused and told me they did not do that. When I pressed the issue with her, she became condescending and told me that she would make sure my money didn’t go to the presidential campaign. I told her once again I wanted my money back.”
Ms. Waites testified that she spoke again with her local NEA President Hunter about the involuntary contribution. Hunter admitted that the money contribution would go to the Obama campaign. Hunter refused to return the money and Ms. Waites never got her money back. Waites testified that John Hudson, an employee of the Alabama NEA, told her that the local NEA union included the Children’s Fund contribution in the expense reimbursement of every Baldwin County convention delegate.
In 2008, Unions donated over $400 million to help elect Sen. Barack H. Obama to the Presidency of the United States. Much of that money came from union workers who did not support Barack Obama. Unions are expected to be the largest donors to President Obama’s reelection campaign. It is illegal to use union dues to fund political campaigns. Unions get around this by signing workers up to make donations to political action committees. AEA’s primary PAC is A-Vote. A-Vote contributions are supposed to be completely voluntary and every AEA member has the right to opt out of contributing to A-Vote or the Children’s Fund if they so choose. If you are an AEA member who would like to opt out of A-Vote contributions from being taken out of your pay each month send a letter to AEA asking them to end the contributions.
If you feel you have been a victim of a union forcing you to contribute to political candidates or political action committees against your will a website has been established were your complainant can be reported directly to the Committee here:
To read Claire Waites testimony in its entirety: