Political Money Monitor: September 4, 1998

Contents* California Teachers Union Caught Cheating
* New Campaign Regulations Pass in Congress
* Judge Opens Files on Union Campaign Violations in Washington State
* Vice President Campaigns for Union Cash
* Teamster Fundraiser Who Diverted Dues for Pot Initiative Pleads Guilty 

California Teachers Union Caught Cheating; Leaders Planned Way Around “Paycheck Protection” InitiativeIf Proposition 226 – the California ballot initiative to require labor unions receive prior member approval before spending mandatory dues on political activity – had passed last June, the California Teachers Association (CTA) already had developed a scheme to allow union leaders to continue to fund political candidates and causes without member consent.

According to a report by the Education Intelligence Agency (EIA), the CTA had both a regular 1998-99 budget and a contingency budget prepared in case Proposition 226 was approved.

Under the contingency budget, the CTA would spend all the money in the union’s Initiative Fund and political action committee (PAC) before Proposition 226 went into force on July 1, 1998. Member dues would not be reduced to rebate what was normally spent on politics. Instead, according to documents cited by EIA, “funds previously budgeted in the [PAC] and Initiative Fund are reallocated to the budget for [the] Public Policy Center.” This new $7 million Center would “engage in organizational outreach to other interested groups with common goals and objectives to obtain visibility and coordinated advocacy on educational issues.” “Outreach” money placed in the general funds of such groups might be used for political activity that would normally require member consent under the terms of Proposition 226.

In addition to allowing union leaders to remain politically active, EIA points out that agency-fee payers – people who have elected to pay union dues related only to collective bargaining activities – would most likely be forced to pay full dues again until the a court could determine the degree of the Public Policy Center’s political involvement.

New Campaign Regulations Pass in Congress; Proposal Faces Disinterest, Filibuster in SenateAlthough a campaign regulation bill passed the U.S. House of Representatives on its third attempt, there is little chance of reviving its counterpart in the Senate. Senator John McCain (R-AZ) told the Washington Post, “we are still short of the votes needed and the brief time remaining in this session makes another attempt at passing a Senate bill an exceedingly difficult task at best.” Furthermore, Senate Majority Leader Trent Lott (R-MS) has said through a spokesman that bringing the bill up again would be a “waste of time.”

The Shays-Meehan bill (H.R. 3526) approved by the House would ban “soft money” contributions to political parties, regulate political advertising, strengthen disclosure rules, limit contributions to one’s own campaign and enforce the U.S. Supreme Court’s Beck decision allowing union members to ask for a refund of dues spent on political activity. Critics say these regulations would stifle political speech and not offer real “paycheck protection” for union members. A filibuster in the Senate previously left it’s Senate counterpart, the McCain-Feingold bill (S. 25), eight votes short of passage.

Common Cause, an interest group seeking further campaign regulation, said it would still concentrate on changing the votes of Senators Al D’Amato (R-NY) and Ben Nighthorse Campbell (R-CO). Other targeted senators include Dan Coats (R-IN), Richard Lugar (R-IN), Christopher Bond (R-MO) and Chuck Hagel (R-NE).

Campaign Finance Factoids

Judge Opens Files on Union Campaign Violations in Washington StateOn August 28, 1998, Thurston County Superior Court Judge Richard Hicks ordered the Washington State Attorney General’s Office and the Public Disclosure Commission to release documents related to a settlement with the Washington Education Association (WEA) over the union’s violation of campaign finance laws prohibiting the use of member dues for politics without member permission. Evergreen Freedom Foundation President Bob Williams, whose organization is suing the WEA, said the ruling will allow the public to “learn to what degree WEA officials influenced the crafting of campaign finance guidelines.”

Vice President Campaigns for Union CashAddressing the American Federation of State, County and Municipal Employees (AFSCME) on August 25, 1998, Vice President Al Gore solicited organized labor’s help to return Congress to Democratic Party control. He said, “The simple challenge I want to leave you with is: Are you willing to match and more than match the intensity that those right-wing extremists on the other side bring to the battles that lie ahead?” AFSCME was the second largest overall campaign contributor in 1996, giving 99% of over $4 million to Democratic candidates and campaigns.

Teamster Fundraiser Who Diverted Dues for Pot Initiative Pleads GuiltyCharles Blitz, the fundraiser who funneled as much as $195,000 in Teamsters union money to the campaign to legalize marijuana use in California, plead guilty on August 17, 1998 to lying to federal election monitors about laundering union dues to help the re-election campaign of Teamsters President Ron Carey. Blitz will be sentenced on December 2, 1998, and faces five years in prison and a $250,000 fine. Carey’s re-election was overturned and he was expelled from the union.


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