Unions are spending millions on politics, and drumming up issues like a minimum wage increase, solely to win some elections, the New York Times reports today. Union leaders are specifically trying to defeat Republican governors and legislators in a few states, including Pennsylvania:
A.F.L.-C.I.O. leaders said they would focus this fall on four industrial battlegrounds — Michigan, Ohio, Pennsylvania and Wisconsin, traditional union strongholds — and Florida. Their hope is to not only oust the Republican governors of those states, but also to flip several of the legislative chambers. In all five states the Republicans control both houses.
Ironically, union leaders claim they are trying to catch up with big corporations after the Citizens United ruling—yet it was unions who benefit from the Citizens United ruling and the subsequent rise of “SuperPACs.” As Eric Boehm of Watchdog.org reports:
An analysis by the Sunlight Foundation, a nonprofit that tracks political spending, of groups and individuals who wrote checks of more than $10,000 to super PACs and other political committees found big labor outspent big business by a margin of more than 2-to-1 during 2013.
Of course, unions dominated political spending long before that. Ten of the top 14 “heavy hitters” in national politics are unions, according to Open Secrets. Moreover, 18 unions spent more on politics than the Koch brothers, the supposed puppet-masters of the “vast right wing conspiracy.”
But direct spending on federal elections is only the tip of the iceberg in terms of union political spending. In addition, unions spend heavily in state and local races, and far more in political activity and lobbying from union dues. Nationally, unions spent $1.7 billion on politics in 2011 and 2012.
Unions are able to dominate political spending because, unlike every other political organization, taxpayers support their spending binge. State and local governments, including school districts, collect union dues (that can be use for politics) and even their campaign contributions using public resources and send a check right to union leaders.