Why we Need Paycheck Protection Now

Today, Commonwealth Foundation released a new summary of election-related spending by Pennsylvania’s government unions.

In 2014, the seven largest government unions in the state gave $7.3 million directly to candidates—nearly $3 million more than in 2012. Not surprisingly, much of this money ($2.7 million) went to Tom Wolf, representing four of his 10 largest donors.

As we noted last week, government union political spending dwarfs that of gas companies, giving four times as much in direct campaign contributions.

In addition to PAC contributions, government unions gave $1.6 million—directly from union dues—to PA Families First “Super PAC” for election attack ads.

Our summary includes videos of these ads along with numerous examples of union dues being used on “soft” political contributions—including mailers and TV ads in support of candidates.

One of those mailings (see it here) resulted in a complaint from a PSEA member yesterday, as the union used her name in support of a candidate she opposes.

There is a story on the complaint in the Tribune Review today, with the PSEA both admitting they were wrong to send such a dishonest mailer, and finally confessing that they do use union dues to support candidates.

Unions may legally spend dues “to communicate with members and their immediate family” about a candidate their boards recommend, Pennsylvania State Education Association spokesman Wythe Keever said.

Keever said this particular type of communication wouldn’t happen again.

It was the first time the union had attempted to personalize such letters, and Trometter wasn’t the only PSEA member who was upset.

Keever said the union has apologized to about 30 members who complained about the personalized mailers, which were sent to at least 20,000 households.

Keever noted that the United States Supreme Court’s decision in Citizens United lends a First Amendment protection to that communication over and above state statute. Citizens United is generally understood to have conferred First Amendment constitutional rights upon corporations. It applies to unions as well, specifically in Pennsylvania under the terms of a separate case, General Majority PAC v. Aichele, so long as the union does not coordinate with the campaign.

These blatant examples of partisan political spending—with funds collected at taxpayer expense—demonstrate why we need paycheck protection.