Sunlight recently had occasion to look at the NJEA’s budget, and it looks very much like spending on dark money Super PAC New Direction New Jersey (NDNJ) was to be increased substantially for 2020 and 2021. In 2019, the NJEA spent $3.1 million on “Organizational Projects,” which Sunlight previously revealed to be covert funding for NDNJ (see Sunlight’s report “NJEA: New Jersey’s Political Machine“). The NJEA has budgeted $18.5 million for “Organizational Projects” for each of 2020 and 2021, presumably in order to have NDNJ run TV ads to support Gov. Murphy’s re-election campaign.
Also seeing a substantial increase was “Strategic Organizing,” which will go from $1.4 million in 2019 to a budgeted $13.5 million in each 2020 and 2021. In total, the increase in these two line-items went from $4.5 million in 2019 to $32 million in each of 2020 and 2021. That’s a whole lot of dark money.
The opacity of the NJEA’s financial reporting raises a lot of questions about how the NJEA spends its money. In addition to the $37 million for “Organizational Projects” and the $27 million for “Strategic Organizing,” there is another $15.6 million for “Organizational Management,” and $2.3 million for “Organizational Activities,” which Sunlight also previously determined was political spending. In addition, the PRIDE program – described as local district community outreach but intended by the NJEA to aid local district political organizing – is planning to spend another $7.3 million on “Organizing.” That’s $88.2 million that appears to be budgeted for political organizing for 2020-2021, but we cannot know for sure because the NJEA prefers to conceal its political activities beneath broad, non-descriptive headings like “Organizational Projects” and “Organizational Activities.” Perhaps some intrepid reporter could ask the NJEA for clarification.
The bottom line is that at least $88.2 million of teachers’ dues and taxpayer dollars are likely being spent on politics by the NJEA, but New Jersey citizens are forced to guess because the NJEA prefers to spend its political money in the dark.
There is no other special interest in the state that can amass and spend this kind of money on politics. No wonder Gov. Murphy has given the NJEA just about everything it wanted in 2020!