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Teachers union admits 2d probe

WASHINGTON -- A teachers union that spends heavily to support political candidates has acknowledged that the government is investigating whether all of its expenditures have been reported.

National Education Association general counsel Bob Chanin confirmed the Labor Department investigation began in April 2002, the same month a conservative law firm complained to the Bush administration that millions of dollars in political spending went unreported.

"We believe we reported all political expenditures properly," Chanin said. "We concealed nothing. I am confident we'll get a clean bill of health and be able to move on."

The Labor Department is the second agency to investigate the way the NEA, which has 2.7 million members, reports its expenditures to the government.

Last November, the AP reported that the Internal Revenue Service was auditing the largest teachers union, which has said on tax forms that it does not spend union dues on political activity. AP first reported the union's decision to report no political expenses on its tax returns in 2000.

Chanin said the IRS informed him the audit "will not be over quickly and could run 18 months to two years."

The NEA has tax-exempt status as a union but must report political expenses "direct and indirect" on its tax return. Some of those expenses could be considered taxable by the IRS.

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