Three months ago, this column wondered if the New York Times would ever cover the abominable Democrat teachers' union scandal in Florida. Investigators from the FBI and Miami-Dade's Public Corruption Task Force raided the powerful United Teachers of Dade headquarters at the end of April. In July, they raided the Tallahassee home of union President Pat Tornillo.
This week, Tornillo -- the Ken Lay of the Left -- finally confessed to massive looting of teachers' union dues.
Here, in its 69-word entirety, is what the nation's paper of selective record found fit to print on Aug. 26: "Pat Tornillo, the longtime leader of the Miami-Dade County teachers union who had been accused of billing the union for $650,000 of luxuries, pleaded guilty to filing a false tax return and mail fraud in exchange for a two-year prison sentence. Court records showed he billed the union for four Caribbean vacations, several cruises, a trip to the 2000 Olympics in Sydney and other first-class travel expenses."
The Times' news brief, recycled from an Associated Press dispatch, was buried on page A16.
The national significance of this public education corruption should have been screamingly obvious to the scribes at the Times. With a new school year opening and renewed cries of chronic public school underfunding, the Miami-Dade fiasco belongs on the front page. The cash-strapped Miami-Dade public school district is the fourth largest in the nation. The implications of Tornillo's pending imprisonment -- and the indelible taint the scandal has left on the Democrats' campaign cash flow -- are even more newsworthy.
The four-decade imperial reign of Tornillo has had a profound influence on Florida politics. He led the nation's first statewide teachers' strike, built the largest labor union in the South, amassed a $4 million annual payroll for his organization, lavished Democrat Party coffers with those union funds, and wielded his clout in dozens of Democrat elections from school board to governor. In last year's Democratic gubernatorial race alone, Tornillo's union and its local affiliates donated nearly $300,000 to the state Democrat Party, plus more than $50,000 in in-kind donations and more than $15,000 in direct contributions to its favored (and ultimately losing) candidate, Bill McBride. Tornillo lent the McBride campaign two top union officials and secretly spent more than $2 million on McBride political ads.
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