A listening post monitoring public education and teachers’ unions.

Union Campaign Contributions May Help Fund Yee’s Defense

Written By: Mike Antonucci - Apr• 01•14

I don’t know if the FBI got back the envelope of cash it used to bribe California state senator Leland Yee, but hundreds of people and organizations won’t get back the money they donated to Yee’s campaign for Secretary of State. The law allows such contributions to be used for a legal defense fund. This is bad news for a whole lot of California unions, such as:

California Federation of Teachers

California School Employees Association

California Faculty Association

United Domestic Workers of America

California Nurses Association

AFSCME Local 3299

International Association of Heat and Frost Insulators and Allied Workers Local 16

Teamsters Local 665

Plumbers & Steamfitters Local 467

District Council of Iron Workers

International Brotherhood of Electrical Workers Local 6

Sonoma, Mendocino and Lake Counties Building Construction Trades Council

San Francisco Fire Fighters

International Union of Painters and Allied Trades

Operating Engineers Local 3

Amalgamated Transit Union

But unions aren’t the only ones who will see their money paying for Yee’s lawyers. He also received contributions from Facebook and the Hustler Casino.


California Teachers Association State Council At Work

Written By: Mike Antonucci - Mar• 31•14

Click here to read.


Awkward Non-Gun-Related Leland Yee Tweets

Written By: Mike Antonucci - Mar• 31•14

   …and one from the California Teachers Association.


Local Union Treasurer Arrested

Written By: Mike Antonucci - Mar• 28•14

Everyone was being coy about who the culprit was when the Guilderland Teachers Association in New York discovered more than $100,000 missing from its accounts. But since the treasurer post was vacant, it didn’t take Sherlock Holmes to figure it out.

Confirmation arrived with the arrest of Brenda McClaine, the former union treasurer. She was charged with felony larceny and released on $15,000 bail. The school district placed her on paid administrative leave.


We Hardly Knew Yee

Written By: Mike Antonucci - Mar• 27•14

The Capitol here in Sacramento was rocked by the news that State Senator Leland Yee (D-San Francisco) was indicted on arms trafficking and corruption charges after a lengthy sting operation by the FBI.

The wall-to-wall news coverage naturally focuses on the illegal arms deals and the murder-for-hire charges against Yee’s campaign fundraiser, Keith Jackson. But there are broader implications about the way Yee did business as a legislator.

The FBI affidavit summarizes well a host of incidents in this way: “Senator Yee would engage in official acts… in exchange for campaign donations and money.”

During the sting, Yee told one confidential source, “By helping me get elected means I’m gonna take actions on your behalf. That’s one thing you gotta understand.”

That’s the illegal form of “pay for play.” A campaign donor receives specific legislative action or inside influence in exchange for cash. But our entire political system exists on a structure in which campaign donors hope or expect specific legislative action or inside influence in exchange for cash. Otherwise, why contribute?

There is an incident described in Yee’s  indictment that shows how even legal and above board campaigns can be tainted by the corruption of others. In October 2011, an undercover FBI agent asked Yee if there were a way to contribute money outside of his campaign for mayor of San Francisco. Yee told him he could “contribute unlimited sums to a committee supporting a ballot measure for school funding that Senator Yee also supported. Senator Yee explained that the ads for the measure would feature Senator Yee in a positive piece supporting schools and education.”

There were no statewide school funding ballot measures in California in 2011, so I assume Yee was referring to San Francisco’s Proposition A, which passed.

Yee has always been well liked within the education establishment, primarily for sponsoring friendly bills. The Community College Association, the higher education affiliate of the California Teachers Association, named Yee its “Legislator of the Year” in 2012. CTA itself endorsed Yee in his 2010 state senate campaign. Here is a campaign ad they helped create.

I feel fairly confident that Yee is the only gun-runner in the California Senate. I’m much less confident that he’s the only one carrying bills for pay.


NEA Membership Numbers Still Sinking

Written By: Mike Antonucci - Mar• 26•14

I’m running out of verbs to describe the continued decline in membership totals at the National Education Association. I’m still working on the breakdowns by category, but the latest word is a drop of 27,000 warm bodies since this time last year. The extent of the losses is slowing, but there is yet no sign of a reversal of fortune.

I have to extrapolate from October 2013 numbers and vague reports of what has happened since then, but a good ballpark estimate would be a little more than 2.6 million employed members, and about 350,000 retirees, students and others.

If NEA still has the “more than 3 million members” it claims, it won’t in the near future.


To NEA’s Credit

Written By: Mike Antonucci - Mar• 25•14

A press release dated today from Bank of America is headlined “National Education Association and Bank of America Renew 30-year Banking Partnership” and contains this quote:

“Endorsing a credit card program was a new venture back then, but it has really paid off for our members,” said Gary Phoebus, president and CEO of NEA Member Benefits. “It was really an easy decision to extend this partnership because of Bank of America’s nationwide presence, world-class credit card products, industry recognition as best-in-class in credit card fraud prevention, and their responsiveness in meeting our members’ needs. At NEA Member Benefits, we take pride in being advocates for members and providing them valuable and trustworthy service — throughout their careers and beyond.”

A quick Internet search turned up a few more attributes of Bank of America:

* “Bank of America: Too Crooked to Fail

* “Bank of America whistle-blower’s bombshell: ‘We were told to lie’

* “Bank Of America Facing $864 Million Fine After Mortgage Fraud Verdict

* “Secret Inside BofA Office of CEO Stymied Needy Homeowners

* And also dated today “Why Bank of America Should Be Stressed

For those of you who complain that NEA gives too large of a percentage of its political money to Democrats, Bank of America provides a partial offset. The percentages of its political contributions to Republicans over the last three election cycles are 64%, 72% and 65%.