Earlier this month, the Landmark Legal Foundation filed a complaint with the Internal Revenue Service (IRS) regarding the American Federation of Teachers’ (AFT) political spending. The 14-page complaint suggests that the AFT uses its general treasury funds to finance political activity, despite reporting zero dollars in political expenditures on the union’s tax returns.
Through extensive research — including the IRS’s Political Organization and Disclosure database and the Federal Election
Commission’s disclosure database — the complaint outlines several instances where the AFT and its president Randi Weingarten participated in political activity.
In 2016, for example, Weingarten published hundreds of tweets urging the public to vote for Hillary Clinton and publicized many political activities that AFT sponsored in support of Clinton. An analysis showed Weingarten tweeted up to 80 times per day and up to 550 times per week during peak election season.
More recently in 2020, the AFT sponsored a bus tour that generated support for certain candidates. The so-called “AFT Votes” bus tour went to 24 cities. On the tour, AFT leadership advocated for the election of Joe Biden and Kamala Harris. The complaint notes that these rallies were not limited to AFT membership and members’ families. The target audience was the general public and the goal was helping to elect Democrats into office.
The complaint lists four main pieces of evidence:
On its four most recent, publicly available tax returns, the AFT reports that it does not use general treasury revenue to fund political activities. AFT also reports that it made no transfers to any related political organization.
During the 2016 election cycle, current AFT President Randi Weingarten campaigned extensively for the election of Hillary Clinton and other candidates for public office. In 2017 and 2018, AFT President Randi Weingarten also campaigned for Democratic candidates for public office.
During the 2020 election cycle, “AFT Votes” sponsored a bus tour featuring prominent AFT leaders, including Randi Weingarten, political activists, candidates and candidates’ family members. The bus tour mobilized the public to vote for identified candidates for public office.
Randi Weingarten devotes much of her social media presence to advocating for the election of identified candidates for public office and to publicize AFT’s political activities.
Let’s hope the IRS take this complaint seriously and investigates the full extent of AFT’s political expenditures.