Outside groups and the myth of conservative dominance

posted at 10:30 am on October 23, 2010 by Ed Morrissey

We have been hearing for weeks from Democrats that the deluge of corporate money has put them at a disadvantage in the 2010 election cycle, thanks to the Citizens United decision by the Supreme Court.  Not only is this supposed to explain the poor showing by Democrats in the midterms, but also highlight the unfair advantage the meanie conservatives have in an unregulated environment.  Neither of these are true, however, and the notion that the Democrats are at a disadvantage in outside-group political spending is especially risible.  The Wall Street Journal explains that the biggest outside-group spender is AFSCME, and that three of the top five are public-employee unions:

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.”

Well, why don’t they like to brag?  It would ruin the Democrats’ chances of acting like victims while unions air attack ads against Republican opponents.  Nor is AFSCME the only public-employee union spending big in this election.  This chart from the WSJ shows the spending levels for the top five outside groups in this election cycle:

The major public-employee unions are spending more in this cycle ($171 million) than the corporate and grassroots conservative groups ($140 million).  All of them get money from foreign contributions to their PACs.  No one in Congress has demanded an IRS probe of AFSCME, SEIU, or the NEA, despite the fact that those unions get their domestic money for political action in part through involuntary union dues rather than entirely voluntary contributions, as do the US Chamber of Commerce and American Crossroads.

Democrats, while griping about Citizens United, don’t like talking about the fact that the Supreme Court decisions eliminated the spending restrictions of unions as well as corporations in elections.  That is why when they wrote the DISCLOSE Act, their answer to Citizens United, Democrats initially included exemptions for unions, and then had to later add exemptions for the NRA and other large, established outside groups as a means to pass the bill.  The unions responded in kind, with AFSCME spending almost twice as much as they did in the previous midterm cycle to help protect Democrats.

Update: Should have been “or the NEA” in the second to last paragraph, not “or the NRA.”  The NRA reference in the last paragraph is correct, however.  In that paragraph, I’m not calling the NRA a union; I’m noting that is a large, established “outside group” in electoral politics.


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The NRA is a union?

Rode Werk on October 23, 2010 at 10:35 AM

Well, if it weren’t for myths (and bogeymen and phantoms and fabulisms) how would the Left survive?

rrpjr on October 23, 2010 at 10:36 AM

To democrats, unions are grassroots — just a bunch of moms in tennis shoes writing a $10 check at the union hall barbecue — while the Chamber of Commerce is big business — evil Wall Street bankers spending millions to control the world. You’ll never convince them otherwise.

Rational Thought on October 23, 2010 at 10:38 AM

#1 on the lame duck agenda…

The new and improved “Disclose Act 2.0″

katy on October 23, 2010 at 10:41 AM

The NRA is a union?

Rode Werk on October 23, 2010 at 10:35 AM

NEA – typo I think

forest on October 23, 2010 at 10:42 AM

The major public-employee unions are spending more in this cycle ($171 million) than the corporate and grassroots conservative groups ($140 million). All of them get money from foreign contributions to their PACs.

Seems to me that the unions ought to be using their money to straighten out their own mess they have made of pensions instead of spending it on failed democratic policies…

….oh that’s right….keep the democrats in and they will see to it that the taxpayer foots the bill for the unions pension mess….

Yes They Can!!!!

Baxter Greene on October 23, 2010 at 10:42 AM

This is not going to end well for unions here in America. It sure seems like unions want full control over the people rather than allowing free markets to operate freely. Personally, I absolutely despise unions and see them as a cancer to a free society. I fear of violence when union members are hit with the same realities that are hitting Europe right now; unsustainable!

Keemo on October 23, 2010 at 10:42 AM

Someone tell the chart maker at WSJ that Rove and Gillespie’s group is Crossroads GPS not GOP.

Texas Gal on October 23, 2010 at 10:43 AM

And the unions are doing it with our taxpayer dollars.

Taxpayer>Taxes>Government>Bailouts>Unions>Donations>Campaign>Democrats

The Obama Plan is on course.

fogw on October 23, 2010 at 10:45 AM

Time to start culling the ranks of government workers.

darwin on October 23, 2010 at 10:48 AM

Without us Small Businesses there would be no unions workers to work!.

hawkman on October 23, 2010 at 10:48 AM

The NRA was exempted in the Disclose Act… which is the Democratic fig-leaf approach to showing how ‘open’ they are about ‘non-partisan’ outside organizations.

Mind you that First Amendment thingy about Congress not writing any law to abridge the freedom of speech has never, ever, not once, bothered to cross the minds of the Democrats and the Leftist pals.

ajacksonian on October 23, 2010 at 10:51 AM

The NRA is a union?

Rode Werk on October 23, 2010 at 10:35 AM

NEA – typo I think

forest on October 23, 2010 at 10:42 AM

Seems pretty clear to me. No, the NRA isn’t a union, and Ed doesn’t say it is.

That is why when they wrote the DISCLOSE Act, their answer to Citizens United, Democrats initially included exemptions for unions, and then had to later add exemptions for the NRA and other large, established outside groups as a means to pass the bill.

NoNails on October 23, 2010 at 10:52 AM

AFSCME is spending a total of $87.5 million on the elections after tapping into a $16 million emergency account

And I’m so sure that ALL dues-payers are thrilled with THAT ! Oy

pambi on October 23, 2010 at 10:56 AM

fogw on October 23, 2010 at 10:45 AM

Otherwise known as ‘dirty laundry’.

katy on October 23, 2010 at 10:57 AM

Well, if it weren’t for myths (and bogeymen and phantoms and fabulisms) how would the Left survive?

rrpjr on October 23, 2010 at 10:36 AM

They won`t survive and I think that we are seeing a more educated and interested electorate, which is their eventual downfall. I am hoping the people will keep their interest for a long time. With the internet the ( bogeymen and phantoms and fabulisms)start to unravel on the Dems.

bluemarlin on October 23, 2010 at 11:03 AM

I’m putting in about 20 hours a week campaigning and I havent received a dime in compensation. On the other hand, our local rubber-stamp Dem has a staff of 10 full-time-paid-volunteers making a nuisance of themselves.

We are bleeding them dry however, and its the sweetness.

southsideironworks on October 23, 2010 at 11:09 AM

AFSCME is organized crime. Instead of guns, they use kickbacks and threats to get corrupt politicians to line union members pockets with taxpayer’s money. It’s a scam.

RBMN on October 23, 2010 at 11:09 AM

Best case scenario is that they waste all that money and lose. Public employees need to be reigned in. They don’t create wealth, just spend it. I work for the County but at least I know that every penny I earn was first earned in the private sector.

Mojave Mark on October 23, 2010 at 11:14 AM

It’s time to use Cloward-Piven on the unions.

Make them spend and spend and spend. Bleed the beast dry!

katy on October 23, 2010 at 11:16 AM

Make them spend and spend and spend. Bleed the beast dry!

These unions feed off an endless river of taxpayer money. Their resources will never run dry….which begs the question:

Why have the Republicans when in power or out, continue to play along and allow taxpayer dollars to fund public employee union pension funds, ACORN, Planned Parenthood, PBS etc..etc..

It’s more a testament to our 1 party government and the rank ineffectiveness and hypocrisy of the Republican party.

rickyricardo on October 23, 2010 at 11:32 AM

All of them get money from foreign contributions to their PACs.

No Ed. PACs can’t accept foreign contributions.

Mark1971 on October 23, 2010 at 11:35 AM

rickyricardo on October 23, 2010 at 11:32 AM

If dues become ‘optional’ by law, that would be the best chance to bleed them dry.
Union workers are slowly waking up to this. Agreed that the Reps are just as guilty of this crap too.

katy on October 23, 2010 at 11:39 AM

AFSCME

Well, why don’t they like to brag?

They get more money playing the victim while they bully.

RBMN, you’re right about organized crime = unions. They’ve taken it to a whole new level, running federal government from within the Oval Office.

maverick muse on October 23, 2010 at 11:42 AM

My husband attended a TOWNHALL that was mis-advertised. It was actually a TEACHER UNION RALLY to promote a tax-raising proposition.

Details are HERE!. An insight:


To make the evening more special, Horemheb even overheard a comment from one of the panelists that the Teacher Union Elite Leaders were itching to strike should we rubes not roll over in support of this golden contract. It seems that the Elite Union Leaders anticipate more press, power, and influence in the wake of a strike.

Mutnodjmet on October 23, 2010 at 11:42 AM

PACs can’t accept foreign contributions.

Mark1971 on October 23, 2010 at 11:35 AM

Tell it all to Obama’s ’08 Campaign.

maverick muse on October 23, 2010 at 11:42 AM

This is not going to end well for unions here in America. It sure seems like unions want full control over the people rather than allowing free markets to operate freely. Personally, I absolutely despise unions and see them as a cancer to a free society. I fear of violence when union members are hit with the same realities that are hitting Europe right now; unsustainable!

Keemo on October 23, 2010 at 10:42 AM

Agreed. I will not do business with unions whenever they are possible to avoid. No UAW-built products. No unionized grocery stores or department stores. Fedex, not UPS. You all should do the same.

First, we need to end government employee unions, a perverse concept at best. Then right-to-work in all 57 states. No pension bailouts.

slickwillie2001 on October 23, 2010 at 11:42 AM

Right to work and school choice would go a long way towards fixing this problem.

Skandia Recluse on October 23, 2010 at 11:46 AM

Of the American workforce only about 12% belong to a union. Of the government sector, workers in education, training, and library occupations have the highest unionization rate at 38.1 percent.

Of note, in 2009, almost 8 million public sector employees belonged to a union, compared with just over 7 million union workers in the private sector.

The United States has a total resident population of 310,541,000…with about 240 million adults.

240 million adults, capable of voting, yet only about 15 million members of a union.

Do the math. Seems a pretty insignificant portion of the population is wielding a tremendous amount of power thanks to the Left, and moreso, this Administration.

Talk about your “special interest” group.

coldwarrior on October 23, 2010 at 11:47 AM

These unions feed off an endless river of taxpayer money.

Let them cry their own river.

maverick muse on October 23, 2010 at 11:48 AM

USA to UNIONS

maverick muse on October 23, 2010 at 11:50 AM

Just waiting for the MSM to jump all over this one…

Owen Glendower on October 23, 2010 at 12:02 PM

Soros dumps money on NPR, and they fire Juan 2 days later.

I think that pretty much says it all.

AnninCA on October 23, 2010 at 12:03 PM

AFSCME is organized crime. Instead of guns, they use kickbacks and threats to get corrupt politicians to line union members pockets with taxpayer’s money. It’s a scam.

RBMN on October 23, 2010 at 11:09 AM

All public employee covered by the various civil service acts (state and federal) should have no right to join a union and all such unions must be banned, these unions are absurd and damage the nation.

whbates on October 23, 2010 at 12:07 PM

Not all union memebers are mind-numbed robots. There are some common sense ones that don’t vote the line. You can get’um a t-shirt, but they vote the other way when the curtain is drawn.

BetseyRoss on October 23, 2010 at 12:08 PM

Mutnodjmet on October 23, 2010 at 11:42 AM

Awesome stuff on your site. Keep up the great work!

wi farmgirl on October 23, 2010 at 12:10 PM

Taxpayer>Taxes>Government>Bailouts>Unions>Donations>Campaign>Democrats

The Obama Plan is on course.

fogw on October 23, 2010 at 10:45 AM

Oh yeah. What happens when they run out of money like Greece & the Euro Progressives?

wi farmgirl on October 23, 2010 at 12:17 PM

I work for the County but at least I know that every penny I earn was first earned in the private sector.

Mojave Mark on October 23, 2010 at 11:14 AM

We need more like you Mark, some think it is their birthright.

wi farmgirl on October 23, 2010 at 12:21 PM

Let me see! I belong to a Union and am already grossly overpaid! And one day my shop steward come up to me and says, Dude! (They like being folksy!)! There’s this (insert group or name here) rally tomorrow and we need your to attend! I say, ya know dude (I’m rather folksy myself) I’d rather not. To which my shop steward replies, Dude, you don’t understand. You are going to attend tomorrow, you are going to be paid for the day, you’ll get a nifty union shirt, lunch, free transportation and you will not get fired! I say, “What time does the bus leave!” When I get in the voting booth, I say, FarkU Dude!!!!

Dread Pirate Roberts VI on October 23, 2010 at 12:25 PM

Dread Pirate Roberts VI on October 23, 2010 at 12:25 PM

I’ve heard dozens of stories of government workers that were a little too productive, so the boss had a management-talk with him or her. In government work, mediocrity is mandated.

slickwillie2001 on October 23, 2010 at 1:29 PM

There were some states back in the 1860s who had some problems with the Union too.

BowHuntingTexas on October 23, 2010 at 1:33 PM

Thanks for the picture on the home page, Ed. It’s the perfect visual definition of “mindless drones.” Or as Rush likes to say, “Mind-numbed robots.”

Looks to me like union members sell their souls to the Devil for the price of a some look-alike T shirts.

Isn’t that special? (In my best “church lady” voice.)

GrannyDee on October 23, 2010 at 1:35 PM

There were some states back in the 1860s who had some problems with the Union too.

BowHuntingTexas on October 23, 2010 at 1:33 PM

And if memory serves, they got their butts kicked on the field of combat, an opposing general who applied the scorched earth policy everywhere he went, and more problems then they had before that were handed down at the point of a bayonet.

Be very d@mn careful what you wish for.

Dark-Star on October 23, 2010 at 2:24 PM

I think the amount that Soros put into his network of connected leftist advocacy groups surrounding the McCain-Feingold passage was around $400 Million.

He essentially purchased the Democrats. Even though it made them beholden, I don’t remember them whining about evil outside influences then.

Merovign on October 23, 2010 at 3:57 PM