Millions in Special Interest Political Money Floods PA with Taxpayers’ Help

Commonwealth Foundation
Contact: 717-671-1901

Special Interest Groups Inundate PA, Spend Millions on Political Ads at Worker & Taxpayer Expense

No Limit on Amount of Union Dues Contributed to Partisan SuperPACs

Julie Raab wants no part in funding the political machine now descending on Pennsylvania, but teachers like Julie, taxpayers, and public workers have no choice. SuperPACs can now use an unlimited amount of union dues taken from public employees to pay for partisan politics and taxpayer resources are used to collect this exclusively political money.

Last week, the first political attack ad by a “SuperPAC” in Pennsylvania’s gubernatorial race was released. The organization behind the ad, PA Families First, benefited from a federal court ruling earlier this year allowing “independent expenditure committees” (commonly called SuperPACs) to accept an unlimited amount of union dues to spend on partisan politics.

According to a report by Politico last week, the governor’s race will not be the only target of government unions in Pennsylvania this election season. Politico reports the American Federation of Teachers is bankrolling, with union dues, the Grassroots Victory Program of the Democratic Legislative Campaign Committee—an organization targeting Pennsylvania legislative races. Politico writes, “Labor strategists even have ambitions to flip the Pennsylvania Senate to Democratic Control.”

Nathan Benefield, vice president of policy analysis for the Commonwealth Foundation, commented:

“The PA Families First political attack ad is a great example of how union members’ dues—not just voluntary PAC contributions—end up in partisan politics.  Contrary to the claims of many government union leaders, union dues are used for political commercials and partisan advocacy. In Pennsylvania, this practice is made all the more egregious because taxpayers subsidize the collection of both union dues and PAC money on behalf public sector unions—forcing taxpayers to fund someone else’s political agenda.”

State campaign finance records show that SuperPAC PA Families First received $500,000 from the national arm of SEIU and $550,000 from the national arm of AFSCME. Both unions represent government workers in Pennsylvania.

Further, PA Families First received nearly $700,000 from the Democratic Governors Association—an organization which itself received more than $4 million from teachers’ unions NEA and AFT as well as public sector unions AFSCME, UFCW, and SEIU.

Dauphin County public school educator Julie Raab said: “Most teachers have no idea that their dues money is being used this way. The union has said that no money is used for politics except teachers’ voluntary PAC contributions. Teachers believe that, and I think using their dues money to fund partisan attack ads is wrong.”

Raab commented on Pennsylvania’s practice of collecting political money on public sector unions’ behalf:

“I think it’s a terrible system. They’re the only private organizations that benefit from using taxpayer resources to fund their political operations, and they’re able to forcibly coerce teachers into giving them money with the threat of losing their jobs. Whether it’s a dime or a dollar, taxpayers shouldn’t be forced to fund partisan politics.”

Even more union-backed SuperPACs are poised to enter Pennsylvania’s political landscape. The Washington D.C.-based General Majority PAC, whose president was U.S. Senator Harry Reid’s chief of staff for 8 years, won an injunction in March of this year to begin operating in the state. Their website proudly states they are “focused on electing Democratic state legislators.”

Nathan Benefield is available for comment on the advent of SuperPAC spending in Pennsylvania and why lawmakers must act to protect taxpayers from being forced to fund partisan attack ads.

Please use the below contact information to schedule an interview.


Cindy Hamill
Dir. of Strategic Communications
Commonwealth Foundation
Harrisburg | King of Prussia
Office: 717-671-1901