PSEA Behind Phony Grassroots Effort
In 2009-10, the PSEA spent more than $2.6 million on political activities and lobbying. By the next year, that figure had ballooned to $4.2 million, an increase of about 60%. Members’ dues fund activities such as a $22,000 gubernatorial debate video, public surveys on education initiatives such as vouchers, and advertising campaigns on public education.
One such example of “public education funding advertising” was $574,813 spent on TeamBlue Politics, Inc., a lobbying firm from Washington, D.C. The firm set up a group that sounded like a grassroots Tea Party organization against new taxes, with a website called NoVoucherTax.org. The group ran a broad television, radio and blog campaign decrying vouchers in the spring of 2011, just as Pennsylvania’s legislature considered new school choice reforms.
At the time, PSEA officials vociferously denied involvement with NoVoucherTax: “PSEA doesn’t know anything about it, and while we like the content, we’re not involved with it,” said the union’s spokesman, Wythe Keever. But the union’s mandated financial reporting to the U.S. Department of Labor shows payments to TeamBlue between April and June 2011.