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Snapshot of Teacher Union Spending on House, Senate Campaigns

By Lauren Camera — August 01, 2014 4 min read
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August recess will soon be upon us. All day Friday, members of Congress will be hoping to flee the Capitol for their home districts, where, for the next five weeks, many of them will be canvassing neighborhoods in one last big campaign push toward the midterm congressional elections.

The homestretch of campaign season is typically marked by last-ditch fundraising efforts and massive spending on advertising, marketing, and grassroots, door-to-door types of initiatives. A couple of weeks ago, we blogged about a few competitive races that could have repercussions for education legislation in Congress. But now, in advance of lawmakers heading out on the campaign trail, we thought we’d give you a look at the top recipients of education-focused political action committee, or PAC, dollars, namely from the two national teachers’ unions.

OpenSecrets, the nonpartisan campaign-finance tracker, looked at Federal Election Commission campaign filings and separated out an incredibly handy list of recipients of donations from the American Federation of Teachers and the National Education Association. Please note that this is data released by the FEC on July 21 and does not account for teachers’ unions donations to other PACs and organizations that fund various campaigns. The next available set of funding data will be out at the end of September, when lawmakers are back from their summer break.


Top Recipients from American Federation of Teachers:

  • In total, the AFT gave $1.4 million to House Democrats in the 2014 election cycle, compared to $5,000 to Republicans.
  • Democratic Reps. Gwen Moore of Wisconsin and Robin Kelly of Illinois were the big winners, raking in $15,000 and $14,000, respectively.
  • AFT gave $10,000 to 96 House Democrats, including notables like Democratic Leader Nancy Pelosi of California, Democratic Whip Steny Hoyer of Maryland, and nearly every Democratic member of the Education and the Workforce Committee.
  • In addition, the AFT donated to one Republican, $5,000 to Richard Hanna of New York.

Top Recipients from National Education Association:

  • In total, the NEA gave $857,550 to House Democrats in the 2014 election cycle compared to $59,500 to Republicans.
  • NEA gave $10,000—its largest donation—to 32 House Democrats, including Pelosi. But the teachers’ union contributed its largest sum to just seven of the 18 Democrats on the education committee.
  • The teachers’ union spread the love to Republican incumbents, funding 21 GOP campaigns, up from 17 during the 2012 cycle. The big winners include Rep. David Valadao of California, who collected $10,000, Rep. Rodney Davis of Illinois, who raked in $7,000, and Reps. David Joyce of Ohio and Glenn Thompson of Pennsylvania, who each received $5,000.


Top Recipients from American Federation of Teachers:

  • In total, the AFT gave $210,000 to Senate Democrats in the 2014 election cycle and no money to Republicans.
  • Sen. Ed Markey of Massachusetts received the largest contribution from the AFT at $20,000. Markey, you might remember, served in the House from 1976 until being elected last year to fill John Kerry’s seat after Kerry was appointed Secretary of State.
  • The teachers’ union gave 12 incumbent Democrats $10,000 apiece, including Sen. Kay Hagan of North Carolina, who is in a hotly-contested battle with state Speaker Thom Tillis; Sen. Cory Booker of New Jersey, the high-profile former Newark, N.J., mayor who won in a special election to replace Sen. Frank Lautenberg, who died in office; Sen. Jack Reed of Rhode Island, a big player in the college affordability arena; and powerful Senate Majority Whip Dick Durbin of Illinois.
  • The AFT also funded Democratic challengers in high-profile races, giving $10,000 apiece to Rep. Bruce Braley of Iowa, who is struggling in his race against state senator Joni Ernst to replace retiring Sen. Tom Harkin, chairman of the Health, Education, Labor and Pensions Committee; Alison Grimes, who is taking on Minority Leader Mitch McConnell in Kentucky; Gary Peters, who is vying for Michigan’s open seat against Republican Terri Lynn Land, the former Michigan Secretary of State; Michelle Nunn, whose leaked campaign memo has put her Senate race in Georgia against David Perdue in jeopardy; and Natalie Tennant, whose competitor in West Virginia’s Senate race, Rep. Shelly Capito, has a sizeable lead in the race for retiring Sen. Jay Rockefeller’s seat.

Top Recipients from National Education Association:

  • In total, the NEA gave $168,750 to Senate Democrats in the 2014 election cycle and just $3,000 to Republicans.
  • Markey was the favorite again, with the NEA contributing $20,000 to his campaign.
  • The teachers’ union donated $10,000 to seven incumbent Democrats, including Sen. Mary Landrieu of Louisiana, who is in a tight race, and Sen. Al Franken of Minnesota, who is a member of the HELP and whose campaign is considered only slightly competitive. The NEA gave Hagan, who also serves on HELP Committee, $9,000.
  • The NEA also funded Democratic challengers, giving $12,000 to Braley, and $10,000 apiece to Grimes, Peters, and Rick Weiland, who has an uphill battle in North Dakota against former governor Mike Rounds to replace retiring Sen. Tim Johnson, also a Democrat.
  • NEA divvied up $3,000 between three Senate Republicans, Mike Enzi of Wyoming, Lindsey Graham of South Carolina, and Jerry Moran of Kansas.
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