And the Biggest Campaign Spender Is...
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Yes, after all the mud that’s been slung at us these past weeks for vigorously representing the views of business, the Wall Street Journal banner headline today is, "Campaign's Big Spender: Public-Employees Union Now Leads All Groups in Independent Election Outlays." Turns out the American Federation of State, County and Municipal Employees (AFSCME) -- the friendly DMV clerk down the street -- is pouring money into Democratic campaigns at a rate that would make George Soros blush, "spending a total of $87.5 million on the elections after tapping into a $16 million emergency account to help fortify the Democrats' hold on Congress." Their members, who, the article notes, pay an average of $390 a year in dues, must be gratified at where their money is going.
Businesses of all sizes elect to join the U.S. Chamber -- membership, and even dues levels, are voluntary. But if you’re in AFSCME, you don’t have any such luxury. Like the Roach Motel, once you check in, you can never check out -- but your money will keep going to support Democratic candidates, whether you agree with them or not.
The article also points out that if you follow the source of the money, these union members are actually paid by you, the taxpayer, so these are -- at least in theory -- tax dollars finding their way into elections. So that’s comforting...
AFSCME, never an organization to be demure or understated, doesn’t disappoint: "We're the big dog," says Larry Scanlon, the head of AFSCME's political operations. "But we don't like to brag."
Of course you don’t, Larry. That would be crass.
Worse yet, in the chart accompanying the article, #4 and #5 on the list of top givers this election cycle are, respectively, the Service Employees International Union, spending $44 million, and the National Education Association at $40 million. If only the NEA could get tenure for its Democratic allies...
The article notes that the debate heretofore hasn’t focused on unions (Yeah, we noticed), and points out that these ads can be paid with dues money:
The political debate over spending by outside groups has focused largely on advertising buys by ... Republican-oriented groups. Unions have mostly escaped attention in that debate, in part because they traditionally have spent much of their cash on other kinds of political activities, including get-out-the-vote efforts. Previously, most labor-sponsored campaign ads had to be funded by volunteer donations. Now, however, AFSCME can pay for ads using annual dues from members, which amount to about $390 per person. AFSCME said it will tap membership dues to pay for $17 million of ads backing Democrats this election.
Of course two out of three of the big-spending unions depend solely on government spending for their livelihoods, so they have an interest in bigger government, and that’s what this election is about -- free enterprise vs. bigger government. As we enter the election’s home stretch, we can expect that more mud will be thrown at us in an attempt to silence business’ participation in the political process. As Tom Collamore said below, we will stay focused. But as you read these stories, keep in mind that the real scourge of this election season is the squandering of workers money -- a few hundred million dollars’ worth -- over which they have no say. Don’t hold your breath waiting for that story.