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Senate GOP leader calls teachers union a force of 'evil'

ALBANY – The Senate’s top Republican on Monday slammed the state’s big teachers union Monday as one of the “forces of evil” for backing Democrats trying to wrestle control of the state Senate.

Senate Majority Leader John Flanagan, whose Republican Party’s sole base of power in state government is facing its most serious threat in this fall’s general elections, lashed out at the New York State United Teachers union, saying it has “gratuitously” targeted Senate Republicans for defeat.

Flanagan, a Suffolk County Republican, labeled the union as one of the “outside forces” trying to oust Republicans.

“Almost like forces of evil,” he said on public radio’s "The Capitol Pressroom" on Monday morning.

By the afternoon, Flanagan was calling on the state elections board to investigate what he called illegal coordination between a NYSUT-funded Super PAC, called Fighting for our Future, and Senate Democratic candidates in several battleground contests. The Buffalo News over the weekend reported the PAC has already spent $1.4 million recently trying to elect Senate Democratic candidates in Long Island, Hudson Valley and the Syracuse area.

NYSUT President Andy Pallotta was dismissive of the Republican leader, echoing remarks he said in an interview last week with The Buffalo News in which he said the Senate GOP failed to act on a teachers’ job evaluation bill during the last session because Republican senators have been too cozy with the charter school sector.

“Senator Flanagan must be getting desperate if he’s saying that more than 600,000 educators are forces of evil," Pallotta said Monday.

Money pours into state Senate races as super PACs go on attack

The state GOP Party filed a complaint Monday with the state elections board alleging NYSUT is illegally coordinating campaign efforts with Fighting for our Future, which NYSUT funds. The Super PAC is registered with New York as an independent expenditure committee, which means it can spend unlimited amounts of money but is barred from coordinating campaign efforts with any specific campaigns.

The GOP points to employees of NYSUT who have positions with the Super PAC, which is run out of the same address as NYSUT.

Carl Korn, a NYSUT spokesman, called the allegation “political nonsense (that) is completely and utterly false."

The GOP has its own Super PAC supporters, though a couple of reliable ones from past Senate elections – representing real estate developers and charter school insiders – so far have largely sat on the sidelines compared with two years ago.

On Monday, though, a PAC run by the Neighborhood Preservation Association, which represents New York City landlords, gave $100,000 to a Washington-based Super PAC called Balance New York, which is working to elect Senate Republicans.

Meanwhile, $95,000 on Monday came from a single address in Westchester County – via 40 separate limited liability companies – to Balance New York, which is funded by the Republican State Leadership Committee in Washington. The LLCs all appear to be real estate industry related.

New York has one of the nation’s biggest campaign finance loopholes that permits LLCs to get around the $5,000 corporation contribution limit. Watchdog groups for years have been unsuccessfully pressing for an end to the loophole.

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