The California Fair Political Practices Commission released a report last week detailing the fifteen most influential special interest groups in the state. Over the course of the last ten years, these fifteen groups—consisting of unions, Indian tribes, and corporations—spent over $1 billion on lobbying, candidates, ballot measures, and other political activities. In a state as large and influential as California, it’s not hard to imagine millions of dollars being expended on directing its course—especially when multiple ballot measures every election pit one interest group against another.
But among the top fifteen big spenders, one special interest group particularly stands out: the California Teachers Association (CTA). In the last decade, the CTA has spent over $200 million on lobbying and political activities—almost double what the second highest-spending lobbying group spent.
Unions have become the dominant political influence in California. At the mere hint of any threat to their power structure, the union-financed political machine fires up and intimidates all opposition. The hubris of the unions is such that during a legislative budget committee hearing last summer, one union leader threatened, “We helped get you into office and we’ve got a good memory.”
The CTA’s spending is especially noteworthy when one considers the issues it spends its members’ dues on. Most of the CTA’s 325,000 members probably assume that their dues are used only on education-related matters. But the CTA has branched out into all sorts of political battles beyond education funding.
Although it would seem logical that a teachers union would only focus on education issues, a look at the CTA web site reveals the true goal of this progressive union. According to the CTA mission statement, the union exists to “protect and promote the well-being of its members; to improve the conditions of teaching and learning; to advance the cause of free, universal, and quality public education.” That sounds like a perfectly ordinary goal for a teachers union.
But the mission statement goes on to explain that the union also exists to “ensure that the human dignity and civil rights of all children and youth are protected; and to secure a more just, equitable, and democratic society.” Ensuring “human dignity and civil rights,” as well as a “more just, equitable and democratic society” is far beyond the scope of simply lobbying for teachers’ salaries or more school supplies.
Since 2000, the CTA has spent over $38 million on lobbying the state legislature. A look at the legislation the CTA is lobbying in the current legislative session shows a focus on more than school-related matters.
Apparently universal healthcare has become a priority for the teachers union as it supported Senate Bill 1, legislation that would extend Medi-Cal coverage to illegal immigrants’ children. And the CTA isn’t just supporting, but is co-sponsoring Senate Bill 810, which would implement a single-payer government-run healthcare system in California. The CTA lobbied against a Republican-sponsored healthcare reform measure that would have provided greater competition in health insurance by allowing out-of-state carriers to sell plans in California
Even more telling than the legislation it supports, is the legislation the CTA opposes, including Senate Bill 370, which would have prevented voter fraud through voter identification requirements.
The CTA has also invested a great deal of time and money into the marriage issue. It supports Assembly Joint Resolution 19, calling on Congress and the President to repeal the “discriminatory” Defense of Marriage Act. It also lobbied on behalf of House Resolution 5 and Senate Resolution 7, which both expressed the legislature’s belief that Proposition 8 was an “improper” revision to the state constitution. In 2008, the CTA was among the biggest donors to the No on Proposition 8 campaign, pouring more than $1 million into the effort.
And if there were any doubt about the political party with whom the CTA most identifies, their $6.5 million dollar donation—the largest donation to any political party from the special interest groups—clearly signifies the union’s commitment to the Democrat Party.
Pay check protection is crucial to transforming California and diminishing the influence of unions. Union members who don’t agree with the aggressive social agenda of their unions are forced to pay dues spent on political campaigning that may violate their beliefs and standards. In the meantime, the CTA will continue to flood Sacramento with its money and influence—at the expense of those they supposedly represent.