T.E.A. engages in “Separate & Unequal” policy of political contributions to Black legislators.
Wrye’s clumsy response: Attack Rep. John DeBerry.
The Tennessee Watchdog is out this morning with a stunning investigative article on the political contributions of the Tennessee Education Association (TEA). And boy, will there be Hell to pay for the TEA’s shafting of one of its most loyal groups: the state legislative Black Caucus.
Jim Wrye, the government relations guru for the TEA, has spent months sucking up to Republican legislators by bumping up TEA contributions to the GOP and even hiring a Republican lobbyist or two on occasion. All while hoping the Republican super majorities will ignore his lengthy history as a partisan Democrat operative in Alabama (more on that in future editions of RTP).
One would think with his background Wrye would have a sympathetic sensitivity to taking care of one of his union’s most ardent and faithful supporters – the Black Caucus.
Even though Black legislators make up over half of the Democratic Caucus, Wrye & Co., gave them over four times less money than their white Democrat counterparts over the last two election cycles.
That is not a mere oversight or aberration. It is the political equivalent of a public slap in the face. And to make it worse, in attempting to justify the disparity, Wry singled out Rep. John DeBerry, saying “He’s probably the worst representative on our issues.” Really, Jim? John DeBerry is worse than Mike Harrison ($3,000)? Worse than Paul Bailey ($7,400)? DeBerry and Sheila Butt got the same contribution from TEA — $0.00.
Incredibly, nine Republicans received more money from the TEA than the largest Black Caucus recipient.
RTP has been quick to criticize the Black Caucus for their playing of the race card when grandstanding on issues like Rep. Sheila Butt. They now find themselves reaping what they have sowed. But being the political hacks that we are, RTP knows there is a modicum of loyalty required in this business, even among political hacks. We cannot help but have an odd sort of empathy for the Black Caucus having an entire deck of racist cards thrown at them by someone who, until this morning, they considered one of their closest allies. Not much fun, is it guys?
So far, we hear nothing but silence from the President of the TEA, Barbara Gray (who is African American). Through no fault of her own, she finds herself with a title but little control over the purse strings, making her position little more than token window dressing.
Poor Jim. He’s not a Republican – never will be — and he just screwed his oldest friends. In his rush to purchase credibility with the Republican-controlled legislature, he threw his friends overboard. The end result will be that neither side will be able to trust him going forward.
Unions like TEA automatically withhold dues from their members which end up as political contributions dispersed by people like Wrye. After this debacle, it will be interesting to see when (not if) legislation is introduced to end the practice. And when it happens, will members of the Black Caucus vote with the Republicans to end the dues shakedown? Don’t laugh. The current system is being used against them. Could you blame them?