PA teacher unions use dues for blatant Democratic political advertising

Teachers and students gather at a Philadelphia Federation of Teachers rally decrying education cuts.

By Yaël Ossowski | Watchdog.org

In the remaining weeks of the heated gubernatorial battle for the Keystone State, Pennsylvania’s teachers’ unions have been incredibly vocal and outright blatant about which candidate they prefer in the Governor’s Mansion.

For the Philadelphia Federation of Teachers, one of the most powerful public-sector unions in the country, they’ve done this beyond their traditional political committee, raising some questions about how the union uses money collected from Philadelphia teachers required to pay dues.

In a series of video advertisements and campaign mailings, they have pushed for the election of Democratic businessman Tom Wolf over incumbent Republican Gov. Tom Corbett, all using their own logo and branding and spending big bucks to make their point.

Witnessed in this most recent action video last week from the American Federation of Teachers, community leaders, teachers and even students are seen rallying up the crowd made up of PFT union members and encouraging a vote for Wolf in the Nov. 4 election.

AFT President Randi Weingarten makes a cameo appearance and gives a whirling speech. “If you believe any of this is unfair, what are we going to do in November? And who are we going to vote for?” she asks. “Wolf!” responds the crowd in unison.

Much more than individual videos on their YouTube page, PFT has taken out its own ads blasting Corbett and favoring his political opponent. “Tom Corbett has been devastating to the public education system,” claims the voice-over in the most recent ad.

Just in the month of September, PFT took out over $114,000 in daytime and primetime advertisements, all aimed at attacking Corbett and calling voters to arms. According to the Federal Communications Commission, nearly all of these ads have been classified as “non-candidate issue ads,” but they have been anything but.

The same can be said for printed ads sent out to homes across the state.

A recent campaign flyer from the AFT branch in Pennsylvania publicly recommends Wolf for governor, showing a checklist for all issues including education spending, tax fairness and financial security. Apart from the AFT logo in the corner of the page, one would assume it is blatant political advertising.

True to form, in May the political arm of AFT donated over $450,000 to Wolf’s campaign. Whether such a move was approved by the majority of local teachers’ unions in Pennsylvania is unclear.

A call to PFT’s office for comment wasn’t returned.

The latest Real Clear Politics poll shows an average of 52 percent for Wolf to Corbett’s 40 percent. Wolf has so far raised $7 million more than Corbett, according to the Public Source project.

A recent Watchdog.org investigation revealed AFT spent nearly $25 million on political lobbying in the past fiscal year, sending millions to left-leaning political groups across the country.

Rob Port is the editor of SayAnythingBlog.com, a columnist for the Forum News Service, and host of the Plain Talk Podcast which you can subscribe to by clicking here.

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