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Forget the Chamber, Look at AFSCME

The president has been telling tall tales about the Chamber of Commerce and nefarious foreign money. But the chamber and every other independent source of campaign funding are puny compared with the Democrats’ piggybank:

The American Federation of State, County and Municipal Employees is now the biggest outside spender of the 2010 elections, thanks to an 11th-hour effort to boost Democrats that has vaulted the public-sector union ahead of the U.S. Chamber of Commerce, the AFL-CIO and a flock of new Republican groups in campaign spending.

The 1.6 million-member AFSCME is spending a total of $87.5 million on the elections after tapping into a $16 million emergency account to help fortify the Democrats’ hold on Congress. Last week, AFSCME dug deeper, taking out a $2 million loan to fund its push. The group is spending money on television advertisements, phone calls, campaign mailings and other political efforts, helped by a Supreme Court decision that loosened restrictions on campaign spending.

“We’re the big dog,” said Larry Scanlon, the head of AFSCME’s political operations. “But we don’t like to brag.”

Yes, all the talk of “corporate” money and the subversion of our democratic system by Wall Street is rather amusing considering the iron grip Big Labor has on the Democratic Party. We learn that “AFSCME’s campaign push accounts for an estimated 30% of what pro-Democratic groups, including unions, plan to spend on independent campaigns to elect Democrats.” But why so little focus on that source of campaign loot? Some would say, “Unions have mostly escaped attention in that debate, in part because they traditionally have spent much of their cash on other kinds of political activities, including get-out-the-vote efforts.”

Hmm. I don’t think that’s quite it. It might just be that in the mainstream media and White House PR machine, independent-groups-giving-to-Republicans = bad, while independent-groups-giving-to-Democrats = vibrant democracy. Aside from the hypocrisy factor, there is one overriding issue that makes unions’ giving so noxious:

Previously, most labor-sponsored campaign ads had to be funded by volunteer donations. Now, however, AFSCME can pay for ads using annual dues from members, which amount to about $390 per person. AFSCME said it will tap membership dues to pay for $17 million of ads backing Democrats this election.

The idea that working people can be forced to give up their earnings to fund campaigns that they may not personally support (or that, frankly, come much lower on their priority list than other household expenditures) is about as un-democratic as you can get.


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