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Teaching Profession

Teachers’ Unions Enter Super PAC World

By Stephen Sawchuk — April 25, 2012 1 min read

The organized labor movement may not like the movement toward super PACs that have multiplied in the wake of recent campaign-finance decisions, but their motto for now seems to be, if you can’t beat ‘em, join ‘em.

We reported last year that the National Education Association had set up its own super PAC. Now, the NEA has re-upped, moving $3 million from its PAC to its super PAC, called the “NEA Advocacy Fund,” according to the Center for Responsive Politics, which tracks federal campaign-finance issues.

The American Federation of Teachers, meanwhile, gave $1 million to the Super PAC run by the AFL-CIO labor coalition, of which it is a member.

PACs, or direct donations, are typically limited to $5,000 per candidate each election cycle at the federal level. Super PACs, on the other hand, can spend unlimited amounts to sway elections—typically on negative advertising—because they are not coordinated with candidates’ political committees.

It isn’t clear whether state and local affiliates of the unions are also moving to set up such bodies. But in any case, the unions aren’t the only ones that have tumbled to this strategy for influencing elections.

The StudentsFirst advocacy group begun by former D.C. Chancellor Michelle A. Rhee, for instance, partners with one Super PAC in New Jersey, and has set up another in Michigan.

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A version of this news article first appeared in the Teacher Beat blog.