The National Education Association, which spends millions of dollars each election cycle on campaign speech, has zealously endorsed a constitutional amendment that would limit everyone else’s ability to spend money speaking about politics.
The NEA has expressed intense support this week for a proposed amendment to the U.S. Constitution that would unambiguously allow Congress to limit the amount of money anyone spends on or raises for federal political campaigns.
America’s oldest and largest teachers union also strongly criticized the U.S. Supreme Court’s 2010 decision in Citizens United v. FEC, which held that the First Amendment prevents Congress from limiting independent political expenditures by corporations, labor unions and other entities.
The NEA lauded a Monday resolution by the U.S. Senate that has allowed debate to proceed in that chamber on the proposed amendment.
“Let us not deny the regular people a voice in determining the future of our country,” urged NEA President Lily Eskelsen García in a press release sent to The Daily Caller, adding that she wants “to turn down the volume on corporate speech.”
“As we approach our midterm elections, millions of dollars of secret, unaccountable corporate money is being spent to influence voters — and politicians. Educators live the impact of the Citizens’ United decision every day as they fight the pro-privatization agenda of the Koch brothers, the Walton family and ALEC-member politicians,” she added.
The NEA also expressed disappointment that super PACs and various politically-driven groups spend hundreds of millions of dollars each election cycle to speak about elections.
Among the groups that spends the most money influencing elections on an annual basis is, in fact, the NEA.
In 2013 and 2014, the labor powerhouse — which has historically enriched its coffers with mandatory donations from teachers employed at taxpayer-funded public schools — spent more than any other union on political speech.
So far this year, the teachers union and its multitude of affiliated local unions have spent $9,029,873 on contributions to influence elections, according to the Center for Responsive Politics.
That amount ranks eighth out of 15,802 organizations in the United States.
Of that massive total, only $1,337,317 has gone to individual candidates running for political office. The NEA has contributed cash to 100 candidates thus far this year: 95 Democrats and just five Republicans.
The NEA has focused most of its political spending, $6,419,750, on outside spending groups.
The teachers union also has its own super PAC, the NEA Advocacy Fund. This strongly left-leaning super PAC has spent $2,227,474 in 2014. Virtually all of that money has gone to attack Republicans.
Among the political action committees to which the NEA has given money in 2014 is the America Votes Action Fund, an umbrella group originally formed in 2004 to manage efforts by leftists to defeat President George W. Bush. The original coalition members included ACORN, EMILY’s List, Planned Parenthood Action Fund and MoveOn.org Political Action.
On June 18, the NEA wrote a check for $550,000 to the America Votes Action Fund.
The year 2012 was another banner year for NEA spending. Two years ago, the NEA spent a grand total of $16,039,481 on political speech — ranking seventh out of 20,771 groups. The amount the union spent on outside spending was $6,579,747.
Democrats in the Senate have argued that the Constitution must be amended because conservatives and libertarians, including Charles and David Koch, must be stopped from flooding TV with political speech. (RELATED: Shut Up Already! Senate Dems Want To Amend The Constitution To Stop Koch Brothers’ Ads)
“These negative, poisonous, untruthful ads have just proliferated,” charged Sen. Al Franken, a Minnesota Democrat.
Thus far in 2014, Koch Industries has spent a grand total of $2,922,960 on political contributions, according to the Center for Responsive Politics. This amount is roughly one third of the amount spent by the NEA. Koch Industries has spent substantially more on lobbying efforts in 2014: $5,430,000 compared to the NEA’s $1,239,531.
“The top three individual donors to outside spending groups this cycle are Tom Steyer, Mike Bloomberg, and Fred Eychaner, all dyed-in-the-wool Democrats, who’ve together pumped nearly $35 million into the war chests of Democratic groups, “the Washington Free Beacon’s Lachlan Markay reports. “Neither Koch brother makes the top 100 on that list. The top Republican-leaning donor, gay marriage and comprehensive immigration reform supporter Paul Singer, has donated just under $5 million.”
“Why do people like the Koch brother’s spend hundreds of millions of dollars?” asked Sen. Bernie Sanders, a member of the Progressive Party of Vermont. “If you understand what they stand for, and that is to end, do away with social security, do away with Medicare, do away with Medicaid do away with the concept of the minimum wage, do away with the environmental protection agency — that is the struggle. They have an agenda.”
Sen. Sheldon Whitehouse, a Democrat from Rhode Island, also pointed to the Kochs as a reason for amending the Constitution, and accused them of coercing Republicans into suppressing climate change legislation.
The proposed amendment, sponsored by New Mexico Sen. Tom Udall, a Democrat, would give Congress broad power to shape campaign finance laws. It would effectively overturn the Citizens United ruling and a 2014 ruling, McCutcheon v. FEC, which struck down laws restricting when corporations and unions can spend money on elections, and how much individuals can donate to candidates in a two-year period.
Republicans have criticized the proposed amendment as an attack on free speech at a time Democrats are afraid of losing their Senate majority. “The proposal they want to consider would empower incumbent politicians to write the rules on who gets to speak and who doesn’t,” Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell wrote in an op-ed Monday. “And while no one likes to be criticized, the way for Senate Democrats to avoid it is to make better arguments, or even better, to come up with better ideas — not shut up their constituents.”