Does the Natl. Educ. Assn. do political activities? Should they pay taxes on them?

Landmark Legal Foundation, a public-interest group has been fighting the NEA for some time. Landmark alleges that, “As much as one-third of the tax-exempt National Education Association’s yearly $271 million income goes toward politically related activities.” Of course, donations for political activities are not supposed to be tax-exempt.

In the past, Landmark has alleged that the NEA failed to report properly its political activites. “Each year for the past 10 years, the NEA has reported spending zero dollars for political purposes in tax returns as a Section 501©(5) tax-exempt labor union under the Internal Revenue Code.”

Now Landmark has asked the IRS to investigate and recoup the appropriate taxes for NEA political activities that are not tax-exempt. The amount of taxes on up to one third of $271 million a year could be big money.

The NEA defends itself:

Questions for debate:[ol][li]Does the NEA perform a large amount of political activities?[]Will Landmark’s efforts succeed? []Will the NEA be forced to change their reporting?[]Will the NEA pay taxes on their political activities?[]Will Landmark’s battle against the NEA have a significant political impact?[/ol]My impression is that the NEA does indeed perform political activities. If they were curtailed, the reduction of support to the Democrats would be a big blow to them.[/li]
However, the NEA is so important to the Democratic Party that they will be well-defended. Furthermore, legal and tax questions are complex. Skillful lawyers may be able to find reasons to justify the NEA practices. Or, they may be able to delay the investigation for years. Finally, even if the NEA eventually loses, they might be able to simply change their formal structure, and keep doing what they have been doing.

In short, I fully support Landmark’s efforts, but I am pessimistic.

The Libertarian Party says one of their solutions to the education problems in America is:

Since first reading this years ago I have often wondered what the straight dope on the US Dept. of Education is. Is the NEA a subset of this organization?


Just so you know, 501 © (5)'s can do political lobbying they just cannot have a PAC or the PAC has to be formed separate from the 501 © (5). I know this because I do lobbying for a 501 © (3) which is similar to the tax status of NEA.

There are legal limits to what direct lobbying expenditures such organizations can have. For instance, the PACs can hand over checks to the elected official of their choice, host dinners and functions for them, etc. We cannot do anything of that sort. we can, however, meet with legislators, encourage our members to meet with their legislators, bring our members here to meet on Capitol Hill, etc. Those type of expenses are not direct lobbying expenses so we can have those. Also, our executive director, staff and our association members can open their personal pocketbooks at any time to lobby and while we encourage that, they are not directly speaking for our association.

I don’t see anything wrong with NEA. I think they play by the rules.

The US Department of Education is a Federal agency that sets national standards for schools, gives aid to school districts, provides subsidized federal loans for college students, etc.

The NEA is a lobbying/public interest/continuing education group made up of American teachers. It’s a private organization.

The two groups aren’t related.

Thanks for the clarification, tramp. The allegations of Landmark is that the NEA actually engages in campaiging, which they say is obviously a political activity.

As I read this, the PAC is avowedly political. Donations to the PAC are not claimed as tax-deductible. No problems alleged about the PAC.

Landmark seems to say that UniServ directors is also political, but it is not reported as such. It appears that the sides disagree about whether UniServ’s many representatives are campaining or just lobbying. Making that distinction would require an audit of their activities, not just their finances.

Note that the hamsters failed to bump this thread after the last two posts.

Right. However, I sometimes see both bodies described as a part of the “education establisment.” Their POVs seem to generally agree. I wonder if there’s a reason. E.g., do employees often move between these organizations? Do employees attend many meetings together? Would I be right in guessing that the the Dept. of Education is lobbied a lot by the NEA?

Everything on Capitol Hill is lobbied by NEA. They are one of the big boys in the not for profit lobbying up here because their membership base is so huge. And because their membership is so huge many of their members work for the government.

And maybe I’m missing something but I still fail to see the problem. Unless NEA, the not for profit arm, is coming out and saying “Vote X for President!” of handing out checks to X, then they aren’t breaking any rules.

That whole UniServ thing I find to be complete hogwash. There is no lobbying restriction on training your members in government relations. We fly our members here for week long training every year and send them back to their districts to train their sections and branches.

I find it extremely hard to believe that a well oiled machine like NEA could make a gross oversight of lobbying rules and disclosure.

That seems like a reasonable POV to me. It also means that in the unlikely event that Landmark eventually wins this battle, it would be a cataclysmic result.

Landmark has been after the NEA for several years, so far without success. E.g. they demanded that the NEA release the tax returns for its political action committee (PAC) since 1994, claiming that they would provide evidence that the NEA was using tax-exempt general revenue in addition to its PAC funds to influence the outcome of political campaigns." Landmark is now monitoring specific NEA activities countrywide

In this 2001 complaint, Landmark alleged that the NEA was virtually an arm of the Democratic Party.

These are strong, and perhaps overly hyped, accusations. Still, if Landmark’s claims could be supported, they would seem to justify being described as political activity.

I find it easy to believe that any organization which isn’t held to the law could become careless about obeying it. A personal story. Years ago, I hired someone to oversee the regulatory compliance area of a small insurance company for which I was an executive. The new hire discovered that all sorts of state filings were not proper. It turned out that the guy who had been doing them for years just didn’t know any better. OTOH he had never gotten in any trouble either. It appears that the state regulators also didn’t know any better or just didn’t care. These filings were really just formalities, but if some state regulator had decided to make a fuss and fully investigate the accuracy of our filings, we might have been in some amount of trouble.

What is Landmark’s side of things? One doesn’t attack another organization without some sort of motive. I’m sure they’re going on and on about “fair play” and the like, but plenty of very large organizations would probably make better targets. Why NEA?

Landmark Legal is a conservative organization that supports civil liberties and opposes corruption. It’s kind of a conservative counterpart to Common Cause and the ACLU, although it’s much smaller. It was a big supporter of school vouchers. This page shows some of the issues they’ve taken on.

I will speculate that the NEA was a good target, because they were violating the law, from Landmark’s POV, and they provide major support to Democrats. Landmark is itself a 501©(3) tax-exempt organization, so they may be especially focused on non-compliance with those rules.

But, I don’t see the huge consequences.

Even in the UNLIKELY event that Landmark is correct and they win the lawsuit, all NEA would have to do is pay some fine. And believe me, they can afford it.

That doesn’t give them an excuse to break the rules but I believe so firmly that NEA isn’t guilty of anything that this seems like a completely worthless cause.

NEA is a fairly innocous organization. Why doesn’t Landmark attack the usual Republican targets- minority lobbying groups, women’s right lobbying groups, unions, etc. etc. etc.

I’d imagine it is because teachers vote. And they generally vote Democratic.

Oh, well in that case…

:rolleyes: :rolleyes: :rolleyes:

This is true, but even more to the point, the NEA specifically works for Democrats. There’s no doubt that Mark Levin, who heads Landmark, is pro-Republican. His web site says he previously served in several top positions in President Ronald Reagan’s administration. He was Chief of Staff to Attorney General Edwin Meese; an Associate Deputy Attorney General of the United States; and an Associate Director of Presidential Personnel at the White House.

BTW it occurs to me that Landmark Legal may achieve some success just by their efforts to carefully monitor local NEA activities. Local NEA units may be deterred from their alleged practices of loaning union employees to run and work in campaigns, using tax-exempt, members’ dues to post political advertising on websites in support of specific candidates, holding candidate rallies, and handing out campaign literature and signs. If the NEA has been doing these things and does them less, then Democratic candidates will be helped less.

Of course, if some units of the NEA really have been doing those things with tax-exempt donaations, then they have been abusing their 501©(3) status.