Mallory Factor's book âShadowbosses: Government Unions Control America and Rob Taxpayers Blind' published earlier this month first documented a $100,000 payment to Media Matters for America from the National Education Association — a payment that seems to have resulted in the NEA gaining increased favorable media coverage, though the donation was billed as a standard administrative expense.
"[T]o ensure that NEA's agenda makes its way in the media," Factor wrote, "NEA has given $100,000 to Media Matters, the George Soros-funded liberal âcharitable organization' dedicated to targeting mythical right-wing media bias."
David Martosko, executive editor of the Daily Caller, reports that the Daily Caller has verified Factor's claim with an electronic document on the Department of Labor's Office of Labor-Managements Standards website. This document classified the $100,000 donation as a âunion administration' cost.
Following the hefty donation, Media Matters began to push the NEA's agenda into the media. The liberal messaging charity has since posted 41 articles online referring to the NEA and other teaching unions, with each taking a position that is sympathetic to organized labor and attacking any media outlet, such as Fox News, that is critical of the unions.
As Media Matters is clearly a political organization there has been some concern over the NEA's classification of the payment as a âunion administration' cost rather than political expenditure. NEA spokesman Steve Grant has denied that the decision was made so that they could pass the cost onto agency fee payers: non-members covered by the collective bargaining agreement. This rebuttal won't be verifiable until the 2012-13 year when the legally required statement of expenses for the 2010-11 school year is due.
Grant told TheDC via email that "the National Education Association (NEA) supports Media Matters for America and its work to monitor, analyze, and correct misinformation and misleading coverage of public education and other issues important to NEA members."
He did not answer when asked if any other nonprofit organizations provide his union with public relations services in exchange for financial support. He also declined to state what specific services Media Matters has provided to the NEA in exchange for the $100,000 first disclosed in "Shadowbosses."
Some parties have been arguing for a long time that the NEA is effectively a political body, and it is hard to deny this when looking at the mix of evidence. Aside from paying organizations such as Media Matters to handle public relations, the NEA has made more than $55.8 million in political contributions.
Robert Chanin, who was NEA general counsel until his retirement in 2009, said that the union's organizing mission was inseparable from politics:
"So you tell me how I can possibly separate NEA's collective bargaining efforts from politics," Chanin said. "You just can't. It's all politics."
The NEA isn't the only union to report in 2011 that they had made contributions to Media Matters. The American Federation of State, County and Municipal Employees gave $5,000 and the AFL-CIO gave $10,000.