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State Elections Get Lion's Share of Teachers' Union's Campaign Cash

Cross-posted from the Politics K-12 blog

By Lauren Camera

UPDATED

The October quarterly filings for the National Education Association's political action committee highlight the degree to which teachers' unions are focusing the bulk of their efforts this election cycle on state races versus federal contests.

For starters, the NEA Advocacy Fund, the union's "super PAC," gave $900,000 to the Democratic Governors Association, according to its Federal Election Commission filing Tuesday, which covers funds raised and disbursed from July 1 through Sept. 30.

In addition, the PAC directed $580,000 to PA Families First, the mission of which is to oust Pennsylvania's Republican Gov. Tom Corbett, whose re-election hopes have all but evaporated after a months-long fiscal fight over funding the cash-strapped and beleaguered Philadelphia school system.   

The NEA Advocacy Fund also pushed $550,000 to Kentucky Family Values, which mainly plays in state legislative races, but also supports the Democratic U.S. Senate challenger in Kentucky, Alison Lundergan Grimes, who is attempting to unseat Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell, the Republican incumbent.

The increased emphasis on state races continues a 2012 trend set in motion by the rise of new and influential education reform groups, like StudentsFirst, that often come down on the opposite of education policy debates from teachers' unions and whose main goal is to impact policy at the local and state level.

The teachers' union spent on House and Senate races too, including $250,000 to North Carolina Citizens for Protecting Our Schools, in an effort to prop up Democratic incumbent U.S. Sen. Kay Hagan who is running against Republican state House speaker Thom Tillis.

The 3 million-member union spent big on media and advertising this quarter. It sent $3.6 million to Waterfront Strategies, a media buying firm that serves primarily Democratic-aligned super PACs and nonprofits, according to the Center for Public Integrity. That money was used, in part, for TV ads opposing Tillis. It also directed more than $580,000 to Patriot Majority, which has conducted independent political communications for mayoral, gubernatorial, state legislative, and federal races in more than 30 states.  

Overall, the union's super PAC brought in $7.5 million since July in the run-up to the mid-term elections, and with $1.3 million in cash on hand at the beginning of the filing period, it had a whopping $8.8 million to spend with just weeks left before Nov. 4.

The NEA Advocacy Fund emptied most of its bank account over the three-month period—a total of $8.3 million—leaving it with just a little over $500,000 in cash on hand as of Sept. 30.

[UPDATE (7:48PM): So far this year, the group has grown its coffers to $12.8 million, significantly more than its entire 2012 election cycle war chest, which totaled $9.3 million through Dec. 30. This year's figures also dwarf those from the last mid-term election cycle in 2010, when super PACs first came into play. At that time, the NEA Advocacy Funds' receipts totaled $3.3 million and its disbursements totaled $4.9 million.

Overall, the super PAC has spent more than $11 million, again surpassing the 2012 and 2010 election cycles figures by about $2 million and $6 million, respectively.]

Here's a run-down of how the NEA Advocacy Fund directed its spending this quarter:

  • $3.6 million to Waterfront Strategies
  • $900,000 to the Democratic Governors Association
  • $587,500 to Patriot Majority
  • $580,000 to PA Families First
  • $550,000 to Kentucky Family Values
  • $500,000 to Fair Share Action
  • $350,000 to Arizona Wins
  • $325,000 to Grassroots for Florida
  • $250,000 to North Carolina Citizens for Protecting Our Schools
  • $200,000 to Michigan for All
  • $100,000 to Win Minnesota Political Funds
  • $75,000 to Committee to Rebuild Maine's Middle Class
  • $25,000 to Democrats for Public Education
  • $10,000 to America Votes
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