Analyzing patterns: How, and for whom, the NEA PAC spends members’ money

 From a legislator who honored the Rev. Sun Myung Moon (who proclaimed himself the Messiah) to the member voted by the Hill Newspaper “most handsome” U.S. Senator, to several of the richest lawmakers in Congress, they have at least one thing in common: the dollars of supporters of the National Education Association Fund for Children and Public Education.

According to the Oklahoma Education Association’s communications with members, these and other recipients of NEA PAC dollars are “friends of education.”

Many of NEA’s favorite political recipients are an eclectic crew with a hodge-podge of beliefs and activities. A few are reportedly among the top liberals on Capitol Hill based on organization that claim to be expert in those rankings.

Neither OEA nor NEA responded to requests for interviews for this story.

To be sure, OEA’s membership is decidedly more conservative than that of the NEA as a whole. That is reinforced by elections in recent years, although the state’s partisan split remains competitive even after years of Democratic decline. In February of this year, the partisan divide for Oklahoma was 47.8 percent Democrat, 40.6 percent Republican and 11.5 percent Independent.

One NEA manager stressed that the PAC’s spending decisions come from “the bottom up,” referring to member’s wishes. The candidates and causes are overwhelmingly liberal, but there is a smattering of centrism in the bunch.

 One issue that doesn’t seem front and center for the list of NEA PAC-supported candidates: public education. (However, one recipient did oppose the No Child Left Behind Act.)

There hasn’t been a year in more than a decade when the PAC has supported fewer than 91 percent liberals, and in most years, the percentage has been higher. Most of the rest getting NEA PAC dollars are centrists. An analysis of the data indicates conservative Republicans aren’t particularly welcome.

The question is, do these causes and candidates represent the beliefs of OEA members, who must join NEA if they join OEA?

As they say in movie reviews, “Caution: spoiler alert.” If you don’t want to know the outcome of the story, then read no further. …

The OEA solicits donations for the NEA Fund for Children and Public Education, noting they are not tax-deductible (truthfully) and non-partisan (quite a stretch, actually).

Over the past decade, NEA’s support has ranged from 91 to 97 percent Democrat and liberal versus 9% to 3% Republicans (mainly moderates), according to federal Election Commission filings.

Among the few Republicans, some accepting the NEA PAC money are very friendly with Democrats and unions. Some of the PACs the NEA PAC supports have the word “Republican” in them, but their ideology leans left, politically.

(Editor’s note: This article lays out some of the causes these candidates endorse. This listing and outline is simply descriptive, not judgmental. OEA members contributing to the NEA PAC can judge for themselves the following candidates and their beliefs. OEA members have a right to know where their PAC donations are going.)

With an overview, OEA members who are opening up their wallets are in a position to judge whether these politicians and candidates, their beliefs and their activities, reflect their personal values or not.

In January 2011, OEA Executive Director Lela Odom announced her members had raised over $25,000 for the NEA PAC. This review of how NEA PAC money was spent represents both candidates for election in November 2010 as well as early stages in the primaries for 2012.

In sketch form, top issues of NEA PAC recipients around the United States can be summarized as they espouse these causes:

* Legalizing marijuana for recreational and medicinal use;

* Abortion rights, including for minors;

* Embryonic stem cell research;

* Socialized medicine;

* Resurrecting the Equal Rights Amendment;

* Giving additional funds to Native American tribes;

* Eliminating the Bush tax cuts;

* Protecting unions rights in their states;

* Raising the minimum wage;

* Fighting efforts to restrict illegal immigration;

* Rewarding contributors by building a web site to walk them through the process of tapping into federal government handouts;

* Several recipients accused of self-enriching initiatives — One was a politician who pushed for building a bridge between Arizona and  Nevada that would increase the value of land he personally owned; and

* advocates of gay rights, gay marriage and gay activism. This has become a non-issue in several states, but continues to vex some Oklahoma conservatives, and thus, likely some OEA members.

Among those receiving NEA political action money are a labor law attorney, a man whose background consisted primarily of being a professional football quarterback, and gun control advocates.

Another was a member of the Black Congressional Caucus who railed against efforts by a white Congressman (who represented a Black majority Tennessee legisla district) to join the Caucus, even thought the rules did not exclude whites.

The same black Congressman filed for divorce from his wife of 17 years, letting her find out through the media; she said she and their children were “devastated.”

 Quite a few are heavily financed by a variety of unions, including the Teamsters, postal, communications, and commercial food workers, unions, just to name a few.

Another recipient of NEA PAC help referred to Tea Party Republicans as “terrorists.” Still another fought for “separation of church and state” (keeping religion out of schools).

Another was a candidate favoring more restrictions on use of the death penalty.

One defended the right to build a Mosque near Ground Zero in New York City.

Yet another was an Orthodox Jew who supports same sex marriage.

NEA and OEA are supposed to be keeping them informed regarding how their money is spent. When asked for proof or some documentation this was being done, CapitolBeatOK’s question was ignored.