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Antonucci: California school unions are ramping up campaign spending

Mike Antonucci | May 22, 2018

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Mike Antonucci’s Union Report appears weekly at LA School Report.

The end of the school year is near, but public school employee unions won’t be stopping for summer vacation. They are making final preparations for California’s June 5 primary and the November general election.

School unions have already committed millions to various campaigns and committees. For the most part, they are donating the maximum allowable to the candidates they endorsed for the Assembly, Senate, and state constitutional offices. But they are committing major resources to two races — for governor and state superintendent of public instruction.

The money parade is being led by the California Teachers Association. CTA’s political action committee donated the maximums to Gavin Newsom for governor ($29,200) and Tony Thurmond for superintendent ($14,600), as well as legislative candidates. CTA then transferred most of the PAC’s remaining balance — $4.6 million — to its independent expenditure committee.

There is no limit on independent expenditures, and unions are allowed to use dues money for them, not just voluntary PAC contributions.

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CTA’s independent expenditure committee allotted $1 million to “Education Organizations for Gavin Newsom for Governor 2018,” which is the umbrella designation for the campaign committee that will run ads in support of Newsom. CTA sent almost $2.1 million to a similar committee for Thurmond, “Educators Supporting Tony Thurmond.”

In addition, CTA used its independent expenditure money to contribute $475,000 to the California Democratic Party. But the union used a different pot of money, from its Issues PAC, to send another $925,000 to the Democrats.

Other school employee unions have also committed large sums to independent expenditure campaigns.

The California Federation of Teachers contributed $500,000 to the Thurmond independent expenditure committee, and $150,000 to the one for Newsom.

The California School Employees Association’s PAC sent $125,000 to the Thurmond independent expenditure committee and $250,000 to Citizens Supporting Newsom, which appears to be separate from the one to which the teacher unions belong. CSEA also donated $410,000 to the California Democratic Party.

The Service Employees International Union committed more than $1 million to Citizens Supporting Newsom and $125,000 to Educators Supporting Tony Thurmond. SEIU also earmarked $50,000 to an independent expenditure committee to elect Ed Hernandez as lieutenant governor.

California’s open primary system has changed campaign spending patterns, but we can expect even greater spending as November approaches.

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