It’s no surprise that Randi Weingarten’s American Federation of Teachers (AFT) went hard in last November’s elections for Democrats and liberal candidates. Since Opensecrets records began in 1990, the federal AFT political action committee has directed 89 percent of its contributions to Democrats. (In 2014, the three of the few Republicans who received AFT contributions faced no major party opposition in their general elections.)
But in a year when the AFT’s clearly chosen party does badly, that means a lot of its members’ money gets thrown away in doomed and hopeless causes. The union’s PAC flushed at least $850,000 through Harry Reid’s SuperPAC (Senate Majority PAC) that was supposed to guarantee Democratic control of the Senate. Another $500,000 followed Charlie Crist (the party-switching ex-Republican Democratic candidate for Florida Governor) down to defeat. The AFT also failed to defeat Illinois Gov.-elect Bruce Rauner: AFT’s state affiliate backed Rauner’s opponents in the primary and the general elections, but Rauner won anyway.
Perhaps most laughably, the AFT’s political Svengalis invested significant sums in the doomed gubernatorial bid of Texas State Senator Wendy Davis, who lost by 20 points. AFT threw at least $175,000 behind her bid to take the open Texas governorship, and the union PAC also threw at least $100,000 behind the liberal Texas Organizing Project and another $25,000 behind the Texas Democrats’ lieutenant governor candidate.
Fortunately for members, there’s an easy way out of funding these political misadventures: Under federal law, contributions to union PACs (just like contributions to company PACs) must be opt-in, and check-off authorizations can be revoked.
The result of a year of poor results will be bad for Randi but may be positive for America’s kids. Even in arch-Democratic New York, where the AFT state affiliate didn’t endorse Democratic Gov. Andrew Cuomo, education reforms are advancing with Gov. Cuomo pushing for more accountability in education.