That’s a question the Wall Street Journal asks, and the Justice Department wants answered.  The National Right to Work Legal Defense Foundation has requested an investigation into the practices of the Service Employees International Union (SEIU), specifically to its mandatory contribution policies.  The SEIU has forced locals to guarantee a per-member minimum contribution to their political action committee apart from its dues, and that may violate federal law:

The union adopted a new amendment to its constitution at last month’s SEIU convention, requiring that every local contribute an amount equal to $6 per member per year to the union’s national political action committee. This is in addition to regular union dues. Unions that fail to meet the requirement must contribute an amount in “local union funds” equal to the “deficiency,” plus a 50% penalty. According to an SEIU union representative, this has always been policy, but has now simply been formalized.

No other major institution could get away with its bosses demanding that every single one of its workers step in line behind its political preferences. This is the sort of imposed political obeisance that infuriates so many workers and turns them away from unions.

The SEIU political mandate may also violate federal law. Union and corporate PACs are supposed to rely on “voluntary” contributions, and it is illegal for them to use money secured by the “threat” of “financial reprisal.” It’s hard to see that an SEIU mandate enforced by financial penalties of 50% isn’t a “threat” or would qualify under any definition of “voluntary.”

There’s more. As many workers who would rather not join a union realize, employees can be required to join a union or to pay dues as a condition of employment. It is illegal, however, for a union to take these compelled union dues and use them to affect federal elections.

Combine this with the EFCA legislation, otherwise known as Card Check, and voters can draw their own conclusions about the direction of the SEIU and Big Labor.  They want to expand their pool of mandatory contributors to their PAC, and the Democrats have worked hard to deliver it.  Card Check would make it easy for union organizers to intimidate workers into voting for the union by eliminating the secret ballot, and then the SEIU and other unions could force more cash from workers into the pockets of Democrats.

As the Journal explains, SEIU chief Andy Stern is no stranger to illegal influence in elections.  Stern helped found America Coming Together in 2004, when it acted as a Kerry support group.  The 527 raised over $26 million, much of it coming from George Soros and the SEIU, while violating campaign finance laws.  ACT got a $775,000 fine from the FEC for those violations, but that happened well after the election, and after any undue influence had already occurred.

Now the SEIU suddenly has $150 million, from which they’ve already committeed at least $85 million specific to Democratic candidates.  That money got squeezed out of the locals under duress, in obvious violation of the spirit and letter of federal law.  The union knows how to protect itself and its interests, and the lockstep nature of their support for Democrats should awaken voters to the threat their policies comprise.  This is nothing more than a closed-feedback loop for Democrats, and Card Check is the prize that will ensure its rapid growth.  The Department of Justice needs to put an end to this shakedown racket immediately.