Teachers Union Boss Is Against Secret Money in Campaigns. Yeah, Right.

Two Super PACs funded by her union were accused by the state of campaign violations for helping Marty Walsh.

American Federation of Teachers President Randi Weingarten Photo by Education International via Flickr/Creative Commons

American Federation of Teachers President Randi Weingarten Photo by Education International via Flickr/Creative Commons

When it comes to dark money in politics, the American Federation of Teachers has a message for its opponents: Do as we say, not as we do. 

In a tweet posted on Monday, Randi Weingarten, the president of the AFT, decried what she called the “unlimited flow of secret money into elections” and linked to a New York Times story about prominent families funding presidential campaigns.

Those familiar with the American Federation of Teachers’s activities in recent elections—particularly in the Boston mayor’s race that elected Marty Walsh—may well be amused by that sentiment.

In 2013, AFT quietly channeled $480,000 through an intricate series of transactions that involved One New Jersey, an anti-Chris Christie political action committee, to a similarly titled pro-Walsh group called One Boston. The transactions went largely undetected in New Jersey, since state laws there didn’t require One New Jersey to disclose its donors. One Boston then used the AFT’s money to produce television ads in support of Walsh’s successful mayoral bid. The ads featured a Roslindale resident and marketer for DRS and Associates, Jocelyn Hutt, speaking at the end. Hutt has not spoken publicly about her role in the PAC since they aired.

The One Boston ads, which dropped in the final weeks of the election, may not have been solely responsible for propelling Walsh into City Hall. But they did significantly help him in the home stretch of an extremely close election.

The AFT’s involvement in the funding of the ads was not revealed until well after the election. It wasn’t until late December that the Boston Globe identified the national teachers union as the group who had funded the ads.

Massachusetts’s Office of Campaign and Political Finance alleged that both One Boston and One New Jersey had violated campaign regulations. As part of a settlement, both groups denied any wrongdoing but agreed to pay the state $30,000.

In a statement, an assistant to Weingarten defended the union’s actions during the 2013 election.

“The AFT opposes dark money, but given the rules, we are not going to unilaterally disarm. There is too much at stake,” said Michelle Ringuette, assistant to the president of the American Federation of Teachers.