(CBS NEWS) — Republican nominee Mitt Romney said Tuesday that Democratic politicians have a conflict of interest in dealing with teacher unions because the unions contribute so heavily to their campaigns. He suggested that money should somehow be diverted or cut off, although he did not offer details.

Speaking in New York at Education Nation, a forum sponsored by NBC, Romney told interviewer Brian Williams that he is not necessarily against a right to strike. “I don’t know that I would prevent teachers from being able to strike,” he said, adding later that “allowing teachers to strike on matters such as compensation I think is a right that exists in this country.”

The bigger problem, Romney said, is that “the person sitting across the table from them should not have received the largest campaign contribution from the teachers union themselves … [It's] an extraordinary conflict of interest and something that should be addressed.”

He later added that “we simply can’t have” elected officials who have received large contributions from teachers sitting across from them at the bargaining table “supposedly” to represent the interests of children. “I think it’s a mistake,” Romney said. “I think we have to get the money out of the teachers unions going into campaigns. It’s the wrong way for us to go. We’ve got to separate that.”

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