Government Unions, Not Chamber, Top Spender
The biggest outside spender in 2010 isn't the Chamber of Commerce but the American Federation of State, County and Municipal Employees.
The Obama administration has made sure that we all know that the Republican-leaning Chamber of Commerce is putting big bucks into this election campaign. But, as Brody Mullins and John McKinnon point out at WSJ, the biggest spenders, by far, are labor unions. And the biggest single spender is not the Chamber but the union representing government employees.
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.”
And, uncharacteristically, WSJ is underselling the trend. The true figure for public employee union spending is at least $171.5 million, since SEIU and NEA surely count. And those are just organizations in the top 5.
It’s a bizarre cycle, really. Government is far and away the biggest employer in this country. And that makes government employees the largest and most motivated voting block. While government’s role in most of our lives is somewhat hidden, it’s these people’s livelihood. As distasteful as people might find big business getting together to engage in rent seeking, it’s much better than people who make their living off the taxpayer working to elect people who will keep shoveling money their way.
While there’s something to the myth of the government bureaucrat getting paid for doing next to nothing, their number includes members of the armed forces, foreign service, intelligence community, teachers, and others who do vital and important work. My dad drew a DoD paycheck most of his working life and I’ve worked for the military and state universities. And, surely, these people have every right to vote and to organize to elect candidates who will work to enact their views into public policy.
But there is nonetheless something unsettling about having our employees organizing to extract more money from us.
via Taegan Goddard