The Washington Free Beacon obtained a document from the Democracy Alliance’s no-press-allowed meeting last week in Chicago showing that Weingarten and her assistant Michelle Ringuette joined the exclusive, shadowy group in 2013.
Weingarten is president of the American Federation of Teachers (AFT), an arm of the AFL-CIO whose affiliates include the Douglas County Federation.
While some teachers still belong to the Douglas County Federation, it no longer has a contract with the school district. In June 2012, the pro-reform Douglas County School Board allowed the union’s contract to expire.
Ben DeGrow, Independence Institute senior education policy analyst, said Weingarten’s joining the Democracy Alliance shows that the union is using dues collected from teachers to pursue an extreme political agenda.
“This revelation further validates the Douglas County school board’s insistence that the district and its taxpayers get out of the business of collecting funds for a national political agenda,” DeGrow said. “The AFT has aligned itself with a highly partisan clique that’s out of step with the values of many Dougco teachers and other residents.”
Unlike other school districts, Douglas County no longer funnels dues from teacher paychecks to the union. Teachers may still pay dues directly to the union, a system that typically results in much lower rates of labor membership.
Founded by billionaire Democratic donor George Soros, the Democracy Alliance requires its members to pay $30,000 and contribute at least $200,000 per year to its hand-picked advocacy groups, including the Center for American Progress, Media Matters for America, Citizens for Responsibility and Ethics in Washington, and Priorities USA, a Democratic Party super PAC, according to reports in the Free Beacon and other publications.
“The group emphasizes secrecy in all of its operations, even as its members and the DA ‘favored organizations’ to which they donate decry the role of ‘dark money’ in American politics,” the May 5 article said. “DA does not disclose details of any of the transactions it facilitates, and its members and donation recipients are prohibited from speaking publicly about the organization and its operations.”
While Weingarten is certainly wealthy — she earned $550,000 in 2012 — that’s probably not enough to keep up with the Democracy Alliance’s steep contribution requirements, which means it’s likely that the AFT is footing the bill for her membership.
The Douglas County Federation is the only AFT-affiliated teachers’ union in Colorado. Other Colorado school districts like Cherry Creek, Jeffco and Denver have contracts with labor unions affiliated with the Colorado Education Association, an arm of the National Education Association.