Tuesday, July 10, 2012

Look For the Union Label

The folks who wail incessantly about the dangers of “money in politics” aren’t going to be happy about a WSJ story on how Political Spending by Unions Far Exceeds Direct Donations (sub req):

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 to the Labor Department range from polling fees, to money spent persuading union members to vote a certain way, to bratwursts to feed Wisconsin workers protesting at the state capitol last year. Much of this kind of spending comes not from members' contributions to a PAC but directly from unions' dues-funded coffers. There is no requirement that unions report all of this kind of spending to the Federal Election Commission, or FEC.

In summary, it was previously thought that unions spent $1.1 billion on politics from 2005 to 2011. Now, we know they actually spent a total of $4.4 billion during that time or FOUR times as much.

Again, one would think that such news would have the “get money out of politics to save our democracy” crowd up in arms. But for some reason, I’m not expecting much of a reaction from them today. Why?

Corporations and their employees also tend to spread their donations fairly evenly between the two major parties, unlike unions, which overwhelmingly assist Democrats. In 2008, Democrats received 55% of the $2 billion contributed by corporate PACs and company employees, according to the Center for Responsive Politics. Labor unions were responsible for $75 million in political donations, with 92% going to Democrats.

The problem with most of those who decry the evils of “money in politics” isn’t really money in politics as long as that money and those politics are aligned with their views.