29 Sep 2000 September 29, 2000
David W, Almasi, Editor
The National Center for Public Policy Research
Amy Moritz Ridenour, President
20 F Street, NW #700 * Washington, D.C. 20001
(202) 507-6398 * Fax (301) 498-1301
E-Mail: [email protected]
* Florida Teachers’ Union Banned From Soliciting Political Donations in Schools
* Political Agenda of Teachers’ Union Laid Out By Legal Foundation – Complaints Submitted to Government
* Union Fails to Overturn Michigan "Paycheck Protection" Law
* Web Site Tracks Trial Lawyer Contributions
* Campaign Limits in Missouri Found to Violate First Amendment
Florida Teachers’ Union Banned From Soliciting Political Donations in Schools
Teachers’ union officials in Florida have given up on their challenge to the enforcement of a state law banning the solicitation of political donations on government property. The move could cost government employee unions an estimated $500 million in donations that would be spent on political activity.
When Ocala real estate broker Chuck Pardee was running for political office in 1996, he discovered that the Marion County Education Association was asking for campaign donations from teachers on the same forms used to renew union membership. This practice was found to be common across the state. After Pardee protested this activity, the Florida Election Commission investigated and ruled the union’s actions were a violation of a state anti-corruption law, based on the federal Pendleton Act, that bans the solicitation of political donations in schools and government offices.
Attorneys from the National Education Association in Washington, DC were dispatched to Florida to fight the ruling, but lost at both the lower court level and in the First District Court of Appeals in August 10.
Teachers’ union lawyer Ronald Meyer said that the case will not be appealed further, but that union leaders still "view this as an attack on union right generally. We take it seriously."
This decision has no bearing on the continued collection of money for political action through mandatory union dues.
Political Agenda of Teachers’ Union Laid Out By Legal Foundation – Complaints Submitted to Government
A series of complaints were filed against the National Education Association (NEA) with the Internal Revenue Service (IRS), Federal Election Commission and Treasury Department that charge that the teachers’ union is misusing its tax-exempt status to elect political candidates.
Information compiled by the Landmark Legal Foundation shows that the NEA has reported no political expenditures in recent IRS filings despite that fact that several NEA budgets have funds specifically earmarked for the recruitment and election of candidates. Landmark further charges that the political agenda of the NEA is so integrated into the day-to-day business of the union that there is virtually no way for members to take advantage of their right to a refund of all dues money not spent on collective bargaining.
In addition, the NEA and many affiliates have endorsements of political candidates on their Internet web sites – a clear violation of election laws pertaining to in-kind contributions.
Landmark President Mark Levin said, "Landmark respects and admires the vast majority of teachers who work hard and care a great deal about their students, but the union’s leadership is required to play by the rules – the same tax and campaign rules that apply to everyone else. And it’s required to make known to America’s teachers and general public the full extent of its political activities."
Campaign Finance Factoids
Union Fails to Overturn Michigan "Paycheck Protection" Law
In July, the 6th Circuit of the U.S. Court of Appeals upheld a 1998 ruling that dismissed an AFL-CIO lawsuit that sought to overturn Michigan’s paycheck protection law. In his opinion against the claim that allowing union members to decide for themselves whether or not their mandatory dues can be spent on political action is an excessive burden on the union’s political speech, Judge Alan E. Norris wrote, "[t]he governmental interest in this case is the right of individuals not to contribute to unfavored political causes."
Web Site Tracks Trial Lawyer Contributions
"Personal injury lawyers, flush with billion-dollar fees from state tobacco litigation and class actions, are pouring money into political parties and [making] direct contributions to candidates at an unprecedented rate," says Sherman Joyce, president of the American Tort Reform Foundation (ATRF). ATRF reports that trial lawyers gave $45 million to state and local campaigns between January 1, 1997 and July 30, 2000, and has set up the Internet web site "Tracking the Trial Lawyers" (www.triallawyermoney.com) for people to see exactly where that money is going and who’s giving it.
Campaign Limits in Missouri Found to Violate First Amendment
Limits on how much a political party in Missouri could donate to a candidate were struck down by the 8th Circuit Court of Appeals on September 11. The court ruled that such a limitation infringes on the First Amendment rights of parties to spread their ideas. Missouri Attorney General Jay Nixon said he will appeal the case to the U.S. Supreme Court.