A report by the Wall Street Journal
looks at the amount of money spent by unions on political organizing
and finds it is actually four times the amount reported in FEC filings.
Since 2005, unions have spent $4.4 billion on direct donations and
organizing activities, nearly all of it on behalf of Democrats.
The Federal Election Commission requires unions to report any direct
donations to candidates or PACs. However, more detailed reports filed
with the Department of Labor indicate that the money reported to the FEC
is only about 1/4 of the amount unions spend on political activity.
Money spent on things like internal communications to members (pushing
them to vote for union approved candidates) and local political races
represent the remainder.
About half of the money reported to the Labor Department is spent on donations to state and local races.
The remainder is spent paying salaries of union officials who spend
their time on political activities, nearly all of which benefits
Democrats. In 2010, union political work contributed the equivalent of "3,242 full-time
operatives with a payroll of $214 million."
The donation of time and money to Democratic candidates by unions
makes up for the contributions of corporations. As the Journal notes,
corporate donors tend to split their money between the parties, "In 2008, Democrats received 55% of the $2 billion contributed by
corporate PACs and company employees, according to the Center for
Responsive Politics." The net effect, when it does benefit Republicans,
is smaller than the donation of union time and money, more than 90
percent of which goes to Democrats.
The AFL-CIO is one of the largest union donors. Combining the money spent on the losing (for Democrats) 2010 election
cycle and the losing 2011 recall election in Wisconsin, the AFL-CIO has
dropped nearly a billion dollars in the last three years. Though the
AFL-CIO has lost 2 million members since 2005, the percentage of dues
spent on politics has gone up during this same period.
Democrats continue to complain about Citizens United and the danger
of having too much money in politics. But those concerns only apply to
Republicans. You will never hear them complain about the "shadow army"
of union members working on their behalf or the billions spent to
benefit their candidates and causes.