It's final: WEA doesn't have to report election influence

Editorial by Lynn Harsh, Evergreen Freedom Foundation


OLYMPIA, WA-The Washington State Supreme Court declined last week to hear an appeal of a 1997 lawsuit filed by public school teachers and the Evergreen Freedom Foundation (EFF) against the Washington Education Association (WEA).

The Foundation joined Teachers for a Responsible Union (TRU) to file a suit aimed at upholding the state's Public Disclosure Act after investigations revealed the WEA failed to properly collect and report money for election-affecting activities in the 1996 election cycle.

A Superior Court judge ruled in 1999 the WEA did not have to comply with reporting requirements that govern political action committees because the $700,000 union officials admitted spending to influence elections wasn't "meaningful" in relation to the union's $24 million annual budget. The lower court ruling was upheld by the state Court of Appeals.

"Boeing could have used the judge's reasoning to pour $52 million dollars into the elections-the same ratio to its overall budget in 1997," said Lynn Harsh, EFF's executive director. "This 'ratio' ruling discriminates against small organizations and results in unequal enforcement of the law."

EFF's continued investigations of the WEA's illegal political activity have prompted the state Attorney General (AG) to file two lawsuits against the union, resulting in nearly $1.3 million in penalties. The AG is currently suing the WEA's parent organization, the National Education Association, for illegally spending teachers' money to influence Washington elections.

"We are very disappointed the State Supreme Court decided not to hear our appeal," said Harsh. "Our state has been a pioneer in protecting free and fair elections, and this decision undermines efforts to have a truly transparent government. It also undermines the right of teachers to know how union officials are spending their mandatory dues."

Evergreen Freedom Foundation
A Non-Profit Public Policy Research Organization
PO Box 552, Olympia, WA 98507
(360) 956-3482, <>


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