Unions Ready to Drop Major Dollars on 2012 Election

Posted: Feb 22, 2012 7:50 AM

Union bosses will do anything to keep Democrats in office, including spending nearly half a billion dollars for President Obama's re-election campaign in addition to funding other races around the country.

Unions say they are gearing up to spend more than $400 million to help re-elect President Barack Obama and lift Democrats this election year in a fight for labor's survival.

"People are digging deeper," said Larry Scanlon, political director of the country's largest public workers union, the American Federation of State, County and Municipal Employees. "If Republicans take over the presidency, Congress and enough state legislatures, unions will be out of business, pure and simple."

Scanlon's union was the biggest overall spender in the 2010 midterm elections, doling out about $93 million to help state and federal candidates, mostly Democrats. This year, AFSCME is expected to spend at least $100 million or more on political action, including television advertising, phone banks and member canvassing. The effort is to help the president, Democrats running for the House and Senate, gubernatorial candidates and key state lawmakers.

With increased spending planned by other labor groups, including the powerful Service Employees International Union and the AFL-CIO, unions are likely to top the $400 million they spent to help elect Obama four years ago.

Luckily, conservative and tea party groups are stepping up to oppose unions in their efforts.

Tim Phillips, president of the conservative anti-tax and anti-regulation group Americans for Prosperity, denied any grand strategy to weaken unions. His group, founded with the support of billionaire brothers Charles and David Koch, spends millions on anti-Obama and anti-union ads across the country.

"It's not accurate to say there's some master plan to drain resources," Phillips said. "These are genuine public policy efforts."

But Phillips said he thinks that, for the first time, unions have to confront organized grassroots opposition in a number of states.

"And Americans for Prosperity is absolutely a key component in that," Phillips said. "The unions have always had the advantage and we are now matching them."

But why exactly do unions feel threatened? Because state legislatures around the country are asking public union workers to contribute more to their pension funds in order to ease some of the burden of collective bargaining costs on the taxpayer.