Between 2005 and 2011, organized labor spent $1.1 billion supporting federal candidates, according to Federal Election Commission reports, and an additional $3.3 billion on various political activities, according to a Wall Street Journal analysis.
The $3.3 billion figure comes to us from the Journal’s Tom McGinty and Brody Mullins who researched little-known union and labor federation reports to the Labor Department.
Unsurprisingly, they found unions spend vast amounts of cash on a wide range "of political activities, including supporting state and local candidates and deploying what has long been seen as the unions' most potent political weapon: persuading members to vote as unions want them to.”
“Persuading members to vote as unions want them to” is okay, but you better not let corporations or the Koch brothers anywhere near a campaign!
Heavy spending in politics has made it such that unions can "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," according to the WSJ report.
“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 report adds.
Well, that certainly is interesting. Unions actually have the ability to challenge the fundraising abilities of PACs but, for reasons unknown, were only supposed to have a problem with wealthy individual and corporate donors because, um, they’re buying the election … or something.
The WJS report continues [emphases added]:
The usual measure of unions' clout encompasses chiefly what they spend supporting federal candidates through their political-action committees, which are funded with voluntary contributions, and lobbying Washington, which is a cost borne by the unions' own coffers. These kinds of spending, which unions report to the Federal Election Commission and to Congress, totaled $1.1 billion from 2005 through 2011, according to the nonpartisan Center for Responsive Politics.
The unions' reports to the Labor Department capture an additional $3.3 billion that unions spent over the same period on political activity.
The costs reported by unions to the Labor Department are varied and include everything from polling fees to money spent on food to feed last year’s Wisconsin protesters.
But let's pause for a second and make a few important distinctions between union and corporate donations.
First, corporations mostly invest in lobbyists and don’t spend nearly the same amount of time or money unions do trying to get people to vote in a certain way.
“Unions spend millions of dollars yearly paying teams of political hands to contact members, educating them about election issues and trying to make sure they vote for union-endorsed candidates,” the Journal reports.
Secondly, corporations and their employees are almost evenly split over party donations, which, of course, sets them apart from unions (who donate primarily to Democrat candidates).
In fact, labor has focused so intensely on Democrat politics that it “has helped make it a force despite the long-term decline in the unionized workforce," the Journal reports.
Billions of dollars, a "counterweight" to PACs, and increasing political sway despite a decreasing force.
You know, if you Google “Romney buying election,” you get about 183,000,000 search results, and if you type “organized labor buying election,” you only get 18,700,000.
Yeah, yeah, we know: Conservative super PACs, the Koch brothers, and corporations are using all the money in the world to buy elections and, darn it, it ain't right!
Seriously though, have you ever noticed that a lot of the people who oppose corporate donations and super PACs are also supportive of organized labor's role in U.S. politics? Apparently, it's okay to dump mountains of cash into politics so long as the recipient's name has a big "D" next to it.
Front page photo source: US News. This story has been updated.