Unions Spending Big $$ to Save Dems

October 22, 2010 06:00

The American Federation of State, County and Municipal Employees is now the biggest outside spender of this year’s elections, dropping a total of $87.5 million to help fortify the Democrats’ hold on Congress.



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.

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

“Public-sector unions have a guaranteed source of revenue—you and me as taxpayers,” said Glenn Spencer, executive director of the Workforce Freedom Initiative at the Chamber of Commerce.

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.

Republican takeovers in Congress and statehouses could breathe life into efforts to restrict how public-sector unions collect and spend members’ dues. Republican Gov. Chris Christie has proposed including public-employee unions under New Jersey’s pay-to-play rules, which generally limit political contributions by affected groups and individuals. Other Republican governors are likely to pursue similar measures.

Mr. Scanlon, who has run elections for AFSCME for nearly 15 years, acknowledged the connection between the number of government jobs and the union’s political clout. “The more members coming in, the more dues coming in, the more money we have for politics,” Mr. Scanlon said. AFSCME’s membership has grown 25% in the past decade.

The union has also donated a total of $5 million to the Democratic Governors Association and Democratic Legislative Campaign Committee, making it the top donor to the Democrats’ efforts to win gubernatorial and state-legislative races. It’s also the top donor to Patriot Majority, a leading Democratic outside group that is running ads to help Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid of Nevada and other congressional Democrats.


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