We all know that labor unions spend a lot of money on political campaigns, but a new Wall Street Journal analysis finds that they spend much more than anybody thought. I doubt this is what most union workers have in mind when they send in those dues.
Organized labor spends about four times as much on politics and lobbying as generally thought, according to a Wall Street Journal analysis, a finding that shines a light on an aspect of labor’s political activity that has often been overlooked.
Previous estimates have focused on labor unions’ filings with federal election officials, which chronicle contributions made directly to federal candidates and union spending in support of candidates for Congress and the White House.
But unions spend far more money on a wider range of political activities, including supporting state and local candidates and deploying what has long been seen as the unions’ most potent political weapon: persuading members to vote as unions want them to.
This kind of spending, which is on the rise, has enabled the largest unions to maintain and in some cases increase their clout in Washington and state capitals, even though unionized workers make up a declining share of the workforce. The result is that labor could be a stronger counterweight than commonly realized to “super PACs” that today raise millions from wealthy donors, in many cases to support Republican candidates and causes.
The hours spent by union employees working on political matters were equivalent in 2010 to a shadow army much larger than President Barack Obama’s current re-election staff, data analyzed by the Journal show.
If you can, read the whole thing. There are charts showing how much the unions have spent – billions since 2005 – on elections. Of course, more than 90% of their political contributions go to Democrats. That has to be a real kick in the gut to Republican union members who have no say in how their dues money is spent.
Remember this the next time you hear President Obama whine about Super PACs and money in politics. He’s just worried that finally there’s a counter weight to the union spending.