Citizens United Merely Begins To Level The Playing Field
The Wall Street Journal's Tom McGinty and Brody Mullins have an amazing story today about how organized labor spends about four times as much on politics and lobbying as generally thought.
Typically estimates have been based on labor unions' filing with federal election officials showing their direct contributions to candidates. But that's just a fraction of what they spend when you look at their support of state and local candidates and, mostly, persuading their own members to vote as the union wants them to.
This kind of spending, which is on the rise, has enabled the largest unions to maintain and in some cases increase their clout in Washington and state capitals, even though unionized workers make up a declining share of the workforce. The result is that labor could be a stronger counterweight than commonly realized to "super PACs" that today raise millions from wealthy donors, in many cases to support Republican candidates and causes.
The hours spent by union employees working on political matters were equivalent in 2010 to a shadow army much larger than President Barack Obama's current re-election staff, data analyzed by the Journal show.
That army would have 3,242 full-time operatives with a payroll of $214 million, according to the Journal's analysis.
So unions, including public employee unions, use contributions from people who basically have to join them to get or keep a job to fund political campaigns. And unlike corporate spending, which only slightly favors Democrats, almost all of the union spending goes to Democrats.
And all this despite laws requiring unions not use compulsory dues for political purposes unless authorized. My mother is a union member and she's actually happy with her union apart from their constant shilling for Democrats. That so much of her union dues went to advance causes she deplores -- and that wasn't transparently revealed -- is frustrating.
And it's getting worse:
Among the unions and labor federations, the five largest now devote greater portions of their budgets to politics and elections than they did in 2005, when the Labor Department first began tracking such spending. Politics and lobbying accounted for 13% of their total spending during the 2005-2006 election season. By the 2009-2010 cycle, this had risen to 16%.
Labor's increasing focus on politics has helped make it a force despite the long-term decline in the unionized workforce. Only about one in eight U.S. workers now belongs to a labor union, data from the Bureau of Labor Statistics show, vs. about one in six 25 years ago. But union members turn out for elections. According to the AFL-CIO, about one in four voters this November will come from a union household.
But it is quite an impressive racket the Democrats and their unions are running.