In January, AFL-CIO leaders approved $15 million for issue advertising, grassroots organizing and other political activities related to this November's mid-term congressional elections. But this is deceptive: overall political spending by the AFL-CIO this year is likely to be closer to $80 million.
This initial $15 million, according to an AFL-CIO official contacted by Political Money Monitor, is part of the normal union budget to be spent on get-out-the-vote and other grassroots mobilization activities. On top of that, AFL-CIO officials are trying to raise $13 million from member unions to fight "paycheck protection" ballot initiatives and legislation (running total: $28 million). Another stated goal is a two-year/$20 million a year "media education" campaign (running total: $48 million).
Next, Roll Call has reported that a "top union official" said the AFL-CIO plans to spend $28 million on television advertising and 300 "grassroots coordinators" (running total: $76 million). When asked about this figure, however, the union's press office denied the report, calling it a "misprint."
So far, this total does not include "soft" and hard money campaign
contributions to candidates, causes and political parties. According to
the Center for Responsive Politics, organized labor collectively spent $49.2
million in hard money contributions, and $9.5 in soft money contributions
during the 1996 campaign cycle. The AFL-CIO itself made $2.2 million in
total contributions in 1996 (if this trend continues, running total: $78.2
million). In addition, AFL-CIO affiliate unions like the American Federation
of Teachers will most likely spend millions in campaign contributions indepenednt
from its parent union.
Organized labor leaders planned to pose a strong challenge to California's "paycheck protection" ballot initiative, Proposition 226, simply by getting its membership to the polls this June. Recent survey results, however, indicate this tactic may actually be the best way to get the measure enacted.
If passed, Proposition 226 would require labor unions to receive permission from a member before using his or her mandatory dues for state and local political activity. A Field Poll reported in the March 24 San Francisco Chronicle found 61% of union households considered to be likely voters would vote for Proposition 226. Enthusiasm for the initiative is stronger among union members than with the general population, which polled at 60% support.
This strong support for Proposition 226 among rank-and-file members has altered union campaign strategy. The California Teachers Association (CTA) has reportedly allocated $500,000 for an "internal campaign" to convince their membership to oppose Proposition 226. A CTA official recently revealed that 70% of CTA members are thought to support the initiative.
Union leaders are also trying to appeal to the business community by
claiming the costs of implementing paycheck protection would be a costly
regulatory burden on employers. Karen Kerrigan, president of the 40,000-member
Small Business Survival Committee, called these allegations "disingenuous."
She noted that unions are often supportive of increased workplace regulation.
"Now, when regulation of [the unions'] anti-democratic actions is at
issue," said Kerrigan, "they shed crocodile tears for the overburdened
Campaign Finance Factoids
Despite claims that the rich control politics with their money, a new report by the National Taxpayers Union Foundation finds that the wealthiest Americans (collectively worth $623.7 billion) only made $21.3 million in federal campaign contributions between January 1993 and December 1997 - only 0.0034% of their accumulated wealth. The report found only 38 members of the 1997 "Forbes 400" list of the wealthiest Americans also showed up on a Mother Jones magazine list of the 400 biggest campaign contributors. Forbes 400 members gave only 0.52% of the total contributions during the 1995-6 campaign cycle. The report also found giving trends of the rich favored incumbents (62.5% of contributions) and consistently backed whichever party controlled Congress.
The Proposition 226 "air war" has begun. Beginning the week of April 6, the American Federation of Teachers (AFT) began running radio ads in AM news/talk station in Los Angeles, San Francisco and seven other cities nationwide criticizing paycheck protection legislation. In the ad, AFT President Sandra Feldman says making unions get member permission to use membership dues for political action would "shut unions out of the political process."
New Releases From The National Center for Public Policy Research New National Policy Analysis papers:
Paycheck Protection: Cheap for Business, Good for Unions (NPA #192) Mad About the Sprewell Case? Blame Labor Unions (NPA #187) For copies, contact David Almasi at (202) 507-6398 or visit www.nationalcenter.org/NPA187.html or www.nationalcenter.org/NPA192.html.
Return to Political Money Monitor Index
Return to National Center Home Page