Wall Street Journal: Campaign’s Big Spender

Written by admin on October 23rd, 2010

The Wall Street Journal reports on the spending by The American Federation of State, County and Municipal Employees, which has  exceeded the US Chamber of Commerce’s spending for the first time in this election cycle.

The Best Government Money Can Buy? is a non partisan documentary about the influence of lobbying and campaign contributions on our democracy.

Wall Street Journal

The American Federation of State, County and Municipal Employees is now the biggest outside spender of the 2010 elections, thanks to an 11th-hour effort to boost Democrats that has vaulted the public-sector union ahead of the U.S. Chamber of Commerce, the AFL-CIO and a flock of new Republican groups in campaign spending.

The 1.6 million-member AFSCME is 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. Last week, AFSCME dug deeper, taking out a $2 million loan to fund its push. The group is spending money on television advertisements, phone calls, campaign mailings and other political efforts, helped by a Supreme Court decision that loosened restrictions on campaign spending.

“We’re the big dog,” said Larry Scanlon, the head of AFSCME’s political operations. “But we don’t like to brag.”

Some critics say public-sector unions are funded by what is essentially taxpayer cash, since member salaries, and therefore union dues, come directly from state budgets.

“Public-sector unions have a guaranteed source of revenue—you and me as taxpayers,” said Glenn Spencer, executive director of the Workforce Freedom Initiative at the Chamber of Commerce.

AFSCME’s campaign push accounts for an estimated 30% of what pro-Democratic groups, including unions, plan to spend on independent campaigns to elect Democrats. It was made possible in part by a 2010 Supreme Court decision that permitted companies and unions to use their own funds to pay for certain political ads. That unleashed a flood of contributions and spawned an array of new outside political organizations, most of which were set up to help elect Republicans.

The political debate over spending by outside groups has focused largely on advertising buys by those 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.

 

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