A PAC affiliated with the Alabama Education Association, that state’s largest teachers union, last year sent nearly $1.8 million last year to a post office box in Brentwood, Tennessee.
Postal officials won’t identify the owner of the mailbox — No. 1292 — but he or she is affiliated with an organization known as the National Research Services LLC, according to records with the Alabama’s Secretary of State’s Office.
Google search for NRS failed to lead to clues.
NRS hasn’t registered with the Tennessee Secretary of State’s Office, said office spokesman Adam Ghassemi.
Delaware, however, incorporated NRS last year, according to that state’s Division of Corporations’ website.
In turn, NRS sent less than half that money, almost $840,000, back to AEA to go to various candidates for state Legislature — including many Republicans, according to the Alabama Secretary of State’s website.
The AEA is affiliated with the National Education Association.
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AEA officials did not immediately respond to messages submitted via phone and email Thursday and Friday.
Specifically, Tennessee Watchdog wanted to know why AEA officials sent so much money to Brentwood, what NRS does and what happened to all the money — more than $1 million — which, it seems, NRS still has.
Tennessee Watchdog also wanted to know if any NRS officers receive a salary and who manages that mailbox.
Professional Educators of Tennessee Executive Director J.C. Bowman wonders whether the money is taxable in Alabama.
“Are they trying to get around the laws of Alabama?” Bowman asked.
“They must think our laws in Tennessee are weak.”
The changing nature of Alabama politics might have something to do with the mystery, said Alabama Conference of Educators Executive Director Terry Slone.
“Alabama was under Democratic power for 136 years or so.”
AEA’s former executive secretary, Paul Hubbert, was heavily involved with the state’s Democratic Party, Slone said.
“Then, in 2010, Republicans became the majority. Over the years AEA had a lot of influence pressuring legislators that basically ran the state,” Slone said.
“It is said that Hubbert would sit in the upper gallery of the state house during the legislative session and signal to the legislators how to vote on legislation. They voted as instructed.”
But when Republicans took over the Legislature they implemented tenure reform, Slone said.
The GOP Legislature also passed a law banning payroll deduction for membership dues for any organization that participated in seven specific political activities, which affected the AEA, Slone said.
“Basically, the AEA lost a lot of power when the House and Senate majority changed to the Republicans,” Slone said.
Problems included a $450,000 decrease in dues because of declining membership, an $8.6 million budget deficit and a $2.4 million loss from financial investments.
“There have been a series of things that have gone wrong with the AEA,” Slone said.
“Many Alabama teachers have said they don’t support the politicians that AEA and NEA support and don’t support the social agendas that NEA supports.
The Alabama Forestry Association speculates that some of this available AEA money will pay to attack politicians who support education reforms opposed by the union.
It’s possible the AEA is attempting to gain favor with Republicans, or at least a certain type of Republican.
Nashville attorney and media personality Steve Gill, meanwhile, believes this money will go unreported.
“They’re going to spend it on political activism,” Gill said, adding the union knows it can’t make the legislature Democratic again.
“They will spend it in communications that are campaign oriented and move public opinion. They will demonize conservatives. They will say we need someone more reasonable that can get along with — and then you end up with a compliant Republican rather than a conservative one.”