The National Education Association this week is closing out a $17 million ad campaign against tea party candidates who the union believes will hurt public schools, although the ads veer freely from education issues.
In addition to the TV ad above against GOP Senate nominee Dino Rossi in Washington state, the NEA unveiled attack adds against other GOP Senate candidates on Monday:
The ad against Toomey compares him to Gordon Gekko, the “greed is good” villain extraordinaire from Oliver Stone’s Wall Street. The ad against Paul attacks him for saying drugs are not a "pressing issue.”
The Washington state ad is in part a thank-you to Sen. Patty Murray, said NEA political director Karen White. Murray championed a bill this summer to provide more funding for teachers just as state budgets were bottoming out. But the ad doesn’t mention education. Instead, it targets Murray’s challenger Rossi on his lobbying connections, saying lobbyists helped him buy an apartment building and a bank. “You lie down with dogs, you get up with fleas,” the ad says.
White said the NEA is targeting tea party candidates because the union believes that their calls for massive cuts in spending and government programs will harm the economy and public schools.
“Obama has talked a lot about education,” she said in a National Journal interview last week. “Great public schools are inextricably linked to the economy. Unfortunately, many of the candidates running this year, particularly some of the right-wing tea party candidates, they don’t feel the same way.”
Earlier this month, NEA seized on calls from several tea party candidates to eliminate the Education Department. An ad unveiled last week in Virginia said Republican House candidate Robert Hurt’s suggestion to ax the agency would cost the state $260 million in funding for rural schools. Hurt is challenging Rep. Tom Perriello, a moderate Democrat in his first term considered one of the most likely to be ousted on Election Day.
NEA also unveiled ads Monday against two Republican House challengers -- Bobby Schilling in Illinois, who is taking on Rep. Phil Hare, and Randy Altschuler in New York, who is running against Rep. Tim Bishop.
NEA’s contribution to various Democrats’ races may be a drop in the bucket compared to the millions being spent elsewhere, but White said the union has upped its campaign involvement significantly since the 2006 midterm elections. NEA members are fired up and the grassroots network was activated largely because of the teacher funding bill that lawmakers passed this summer, she said.
Still, NEA is picking its battles, going into races where the contribution is meaningful. “You can’t play everywhere. Play where you think you make the biggest difference,” she said.
This article appears in the October 25, 2010, edition of National Journal Daily PM Update.