Political Spending by Government Unions During the 2014 Election

Taxpayer-Collected Campaign Contributions

Workers' contributions to government union Political Action Committees (PACs) are voluntary, but the collection of this PAC money is anything but. Taxpayers are required to subsidize the collection of campaign contributions for government unions, a political and financial privilege no other private organization enjoys.

According to the most recent state campaign finance reports, the PACs of seven Pennsylvania government unions donated more than $10.5 million to candidates in the 2013-2014 election cycle.

In contrast, these PACs spent just $5.5 million during the 2011-2012 election cycle. In other words, taxpayers helped unions spend 89 percent more on election politics this year as compared to just two years ago.

Total Pennsylvania Government Union PAC Spending for 2014 Election Cycle
Union 2013 2014 Total
Pennsylvania State Education Association (PSEA-PACE) $469,654 $2,711,333 $3,180,987
Philadelphia Federation of Teachers (PFT) $115,309 $288,676 $403,985
American Federation of State, County and Municipal Employees (AFSCME) Council 13 $541,093 $686,040 $1,227,133
AFSCME People $401,736 $1,123,506 $1,525,242
PA Service Employees International Union (SEIU)* $267,264 $2,144,011 $2,411,275
United Food and Commercial Workers (UFCW) 1776 $187,986 $206,944 $394,930
PA American Federation of Labor and Congress of Industrial Organizations (AFL-CIO) $60,347 $93,715 $154,062
American Federation of Teachers Pennsylvania (AFT-PA) $8,500 $33,300 $41,800
American Federation of Teachers (Washington, DC – National) $0 $1,057,315 $1,057,315
Pittsburgh Federation of Teachers (PFT Pol Action Fund) $15,187 $56,438 $71,625
Total $2,067,075 $8,401,278 $10,468,353
*Includes political expenditures from PSSU Local SEIU 668 COPE Fund
Source: https://www.campaignfinanceonline.state.pa.us

Influence in the Governor’s Race

Government unions, never afraid to wield their political privilege, have financed candidatesthrough PAC contributions amenable to their wishes, such as current Governor-elect Tom Wolf. According to PublicSource, four of the top ten contributors to Tom Wolf were government unions, giving Mr. Wolf more than $2.3 million this past election.

All told, he received more than $3.4 million from twelve government unions that donated at least $5,000 to his campaign.

Government Union Contributions to Tom Wolf
Union Contribution
PA Service Employees International Union* $988,388
Pennsylvania State Education Association $800,000
American Federation of Teachers (National)* $661,781
AFSCME (National) $500,000
UFCW (National) $180,000
Philadelphia Federation of Teachers $110,000
PA State Corrections Officers Association $100,000
AFSCME Council 13* $54,750
AFT Pennsylvania $27,500
Pittsburgh Federation of Teachers $25,500
PA AFL-CIO $7,650
Scranton Federation of Teachers $5,000
Total $3,460,569
*Includes “in-kind” contributions

Super PACs

Taxpayers don’t just subsidize the collection of government unions' PAC money; they are also forced to collect union dues, which can then be directed toward a variety of political activities on behalf of candidates.

One of these activities is the funding of “Super PACs.” Under federal court rulings, Super PACs can collect an unlimited amount of union dues to fund campaign efforts. They can then spend an unlimited amount of money in support of or opposition to a candidate, so long as their efforts are “independent' of the candidate's own campaign. This typically means paying for TV or radio ads supporting or opposing a candidate.

In 2014, three government unions funneled $1.6 million to PA Families First, a Super PAC established by the Democratic Governors' Association, according to Pennsylvania Department of State records.

Contributions to PA Families First
Government Union Amount
American Federation of State, County, and Municipal Employees (AFSCME) $520,000
National Education Association (NEA) $560,000
American Federation of Teachers (AFT) $520,000
Total $1,600,000

These contributions helped PA Families First televise the two ads below, which slammed Governor Corbett for cutting education spending.

Dues-Funded Political Expenditures

Super PACs are just one of the many political expenditures financed by union dues. There are countless examples of dues-funded political advocacy. Government unions can and have used their members’ dues—many times without their knowledge—for a variety of political activities in support of candidates. Here are a number of examples from the 2014 election:

Pennsylvania State Education Association (PSEA)

Philadelphia Federation of Teachers (PFT)

  • The PFT spent dues at the rate of $70,000 per minute on a misleading television ad (below) blaming Governor Corbett for cutting education spending.

American Federation of Teachers – Pennsylvania (AFT-PA)

American Federation of Teachers (AFT)

  • The AFT announced it will be spending more on politics ($20 million) this year than any prior year in the union’s history.
  • The AFT posted a video (below) of a PFT rally in which the president of the AFT, Randi Weingarten, yelled “This Governor is morally bankrupt and he has got to go!” as “Crush Corbett” signs were waved.

National Education Association (NEA)

Service Employees International Union (SEIU) Pennsylvania

United Food and Commercial Workers Union 1776 (UFCW)

  • UFCW posted the following anti-Republican video from Keystone Progress PAC on their Twitter page.

The evidence is overwhelming: Unions use members' dues and taxpayer resources to push their political agenda. By passing paycheck protection, Pennsylvania can move toward leveling the political playing field, making Pennsylvania fairer for all those engaged in the political process.