Throughout the debate over health care reform, there has been a great deal of discussion over the role of special interests in influencing the votes of lawmakers. Liberal democrats, progressive think tanks and mainstream media have repeatedly accused anyone who opposes government run health care of standing with special interests instead of with needy Americans, painting them as greedy and selfish. And now that a bill has passed in the House and is on its way to the Senate, big government proponents of a 'public option' are already attacking their fellow Democrats' own bill, insisting that it may as well have been written by special interests.
Funny they should mention that. Because, just like the stimulus bill
, it was
written by special interests.
While it's true that Republicans certainly receive their fair share of donations from the health industry, the surprising truth is that Democrats actually receive more. Because there's one giant special interest sector that everyone seems to be leaving out: Big Labor. And in the monarchy of labor these days, there is one queen that's at the top of the money chain, and that's the Service Employees International Union
(SEIU), the top billing union in its parent coalition, Change to Win
. Especially when it comes to the issue of health care.
Let's start first by breaking down the numbers.
- Labor union PACs account for about $305 million in campaign contributions from 2000 to the current 2010 election cycle, 90% of which has gone to Democrats.
- Add to that just the top 20 contributing 527 groups, and it throws at least another $470 million into the pot; the majority of which came from big labor and their front groups like "America Votes" and "America Coming Together".
- So, when combined with the health industry donations that are so often the only numbers cited, this paints a bigger - and more accurate - picture and adds at least another $638 million that went to Democrats since 2000, thanks entirely to Big Labor. And that's actually an understated figure, since I didn't even include most of the 527 groups (just the top 20).
- SEIU alone has spent at least $187 million through combined lobbying, PAC and 527 group donations and expenses on candidates and policy issues – nearly 100% of which went to liberal policy initiatives and candidates.
So far just in 2009, SEIU has spent more than $2 million
on direct lobbying, most of it for health care legislation, the stimulus bill, and the Employee Free Choice Act. And in 2009-2010 Congressional donations, they've surpassed $425,000
, with 100% of that going to Democrats, especially those crucial to health care votes. And through their various other coalitions and campaigns, like Health Care for America Now
and Divided We Fail
(with AARP), they've expended even more in both financial and people resources. And who knows what those numbers look like when you add up all their coalitions and committees that don't necessarily bear the SEIU name.
Outside of just health care, these have been some of the top 527s group recipients of their donations. SEIU funnels some of its indirect donations through these groups, among others. If you drill down on groups like America Votes, America Coming Together, and the Media Fund, you'll also find some of SEIU's regular financial collaborators, such as ACORN and George Soros:
[caption id="attachment_31094" align="aligncenter" width="550" caption="Click to view this report on OpenSecrets.org"]
In my prior post, "SEIU: Building a New American Health Care Empire
?", I discussed the hidden agenda behind WHY the big purple union is spending so much on political issues, primarily health care.
So, now let's talk about WHO some of these people are. Who is sharing the shadow with SEIU and helping to shape today's policies? Just like cogs in a wheel, each is one of the teeth on that wheel that, when engaging the other teeth, sets the others in motion. And that in turn moves other wheels too.
Start with Christopher Jennings, former Clinton White House health care advisor and founder of Jennings Policy Strategies
. A SEIU health care strategy
presentation was given in November of 2007 by Jennings, who himself is an avid lobbyist for SEIU
. Conveniently, Jennings also lobbies for AFL-CIO, General Motors, Federation of American Hospitals, the American Board of Internal Medicine, Siemens AG and many others with interests in health care and retirement benefits, representing a total of more than $440 million
for the political process.
[caption id="attachment_31158" align="aligncenter" width="549" caption="Click to view this report on OpenSecrets.org"][/caption]
Then of course, there is the power of purple in the White House, which certainly boosts their personal lobbying status on a number of fronts. As I mentioned before - like cogs in the wheel, they work together.
- There's Andy Stern, SEIU's President. He's had over twenty visits to the White House (even more, off-the-books), most of those for health care meetings, and he bragged in 2008 that the SEIU spent $60.7 million "to elect Barack Obama". Stern is also President of the Coalition of Kaiser Permanente Unions, Director of the National Academy of Social Insurance, Aspen Institute trustee, Chair of the Center for Community and Corporate Ethics, and Director of Rock the Vote. Dennis Rivera, head of SEIU Health Care, has also been on several trips to the White House for discussions on health care with his SEIU colleagues and the President.
- SEIU Secretary-Treasurer Anna Burger is also chair of SEIU's parent labor coaltion, Change to Win. She's also a White House regular, as one of Obama's personal appointees to the President's Economic Recovery Board of Advisers (PERBA), where she works with other leaders, including AFL-CIO labor union President Richard Trumka and GE Executive Jeffrey Immelt to help determine the course for America's economic recovery. (You can judge for yourself how well that's working out).
- Patrick Gaspard, former vice president of politics and legislation for Local 1199 SEIU United Healthcare Workers East, now serves as the White House political director after serving as the national political director for Obama’s general election campaign. Gaspard also led lobbying efforts on behalf of SEIU on the State Children’s Health Insurance Program (SCHIP) in 2007. He’s also been very actively involved in the past with America Coming Together and Project Vote, and will deflect any ACORN or Working Families Party association, though the trail is all there, but that's a post for another day.
- John Sullivan, SEIU associate counsel, now sits on the Federal Election Commission, appointed by Obama earlier this year. Sullivan’s prior career has also included staunch support for Teamsters union bosses as their Election Officer Counsel, and legal counsel to SEIU and other labor unions on everything from election campaigning rules, to strikes, and union benefits agreements. Perhaps most notably though, under Sullivan's legal watch, America Coming Together, a Soros & Stern funded 527 group that serves as a financial funnel for donations from big labor, received the largest fine in FEC history - $775,000. And now he helps run the FEC. Keep a close watch on SEIU's lobbying reports from this point forward...(See this video from the National Right to Work Committee for a fantastic overview on Sullivan).
- Craig Becker, associate general counsel of SEIU, was nominated by Obama to the National Labor Relations Board in July. Becker was instrumental in developing SEIU’s legal strategies for organizing informal workers, primarily home health care workers and similar health care industry workers, testifying on Capitol Hill in 2007 in support of unionizing such workers. There has also been separate concern over this appointment, relating to the Employee Free Choice Act and questions about the potential for Becker, whose public writings have stated that he believes “employers should be stripped of any legally cognizable interest in their employees’ election of union representatives”, to implement labor policies that would achieve the same outcome as the EFCA should that bill stall or fail in Congress. Senator John McCain has requested a hold on Becker's hearings, so the outcome of Becker's appointment is yet to be determined.
As we move further down this road into the health care debate, all eyes should remain on SEIU, the most special of all special interests. I've said it before and will say it again. Do not take your eyes off them. The big labor union has got tentacles into every area of this debate, and they reach from deep inside the communities of working Americans in every facet of our lives, all the way into Congress and the White House Oval Office. What you've just read is merely an overview of the money behind SEIU's policy pushing arm. The people and the power behind the broader
scope of SEIU are like pieces of a puzzle - put them each together just a little at a time, and the bigger picture will start to materialize.