Midterms’ biggest outside spender? Hint: Not the Chamber of Commerce

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.”…

AFSCME began the year with a $70 million budget to campaign for Democrats who supported its priorities in Washington. It wasn’t planning to help those who opposed issues including health-care legislation and extending unemployment benefits.

But with a Republican takeover of the House in the offing, AFSCME reversed itself and began supporting Democrats it once opposed, following what it calls the “218 Strategy,” after the number of seats needed for a House majority.