After eight years and several go-rounds in court, Washington’s teacher and school employee union will pay $975,000 to settle a campaign finance lawsuit.
The Washington Education Association was accused in 2000 of illegally spending nonmember fees on political campaigns. The lawsuit, instigated by a complaint from the Evergreen Freedom Foundation, has bounced through several levels of court — most recently the U.S. Supreme Court, which ruled that states can force public-sector unions to get workers’ approval before spending dues on politics.
But the Legislature modified Washington’s law in 2007, effectively reducing the influence of that provision by stating unions can use dues on political spending provided they have sufficient general-treasury funding from other sources.
The WEA reached a settlement with the state Attorney General’s Office on Wednesday, agreeing to pay the state $735,000 and return $240,000 to nonmembers who paid fees from the academic years starting in 2003 and ending in 2007. During that time the WEA’s political action committee spent more than $2.7 million on state political races, with most of the money going to Democratic candidates and causes.