Unions Dominate Political Action Committee Spending, and Probably Will for Years

Friday, May 11, 2012

Business executives write a lot of checks every year to elected officials and candidates for public office. And union members are no slouches in that department either.

Consider the records compiled by the Massachusetts Office of Campaign and Political Finance, which show that political action committees with union affiliations occupy 16 spots on the list of 20 PACs that gave the most to candidates for state and county offices in Massachusetts in 2010.

The Retired Public Employees PAC topped the list with $66,000, followed by the 1199 SEIU MA PAC (Service Employees International Union) with $61,500, and the Professional Firefighters of MA People’s Committee with $55,825.

The only non-union PACs in the Top 20 list are the Committee for a Democratic House, the Beer Distributors, the MA Association of Realtors, and Citizens for Limited Taxation.  See complete list at bottom of this post.

Unions have seen better days here and across the nation: today, slightly less than 16% of all employed persons in Massachusetts are in unions.

Unions still have a lot of clout, however, because they have been entrenched in Massachusetts politics for so long and because union leaders and members are, by nature, savvy political operators.  Also, the Democratic Party, traditionally the home of the working man and woman, has a lock on both branches of the legislature.

Over the last several years, as Massachusetts struggled to emerge from the Great Recession, the leaders of both the House and Senate have emphasized on different occasions, correctly, that unions helped to build the middle class in this country and that the middle class cannot be maintained if the unions are diminished.

Because Massachusetts is doing better economically than a lot of states right now, you can make a good argument that unions have been a component of the overall strength that has made it possible for Massachusetts to weather the downturn and mount an economic comeback.  Certainly, Steve Tolman, the former state senator who heads the Massachusetts AFL-CIO, would say that.

That will not mean, though, that unions in Massachusetts won’t come under tremendous pressure over the next 10 to 20 years as the state fights to hold its place in the global economy and as non-unionized employees in the private sector increasingly compare their benefits to those of unionized public employees and grumble at what they see.

A situation like that probably guarantees that Massachusetts unions will never be outpaced when playing the PAC version of the Dale Carnegie game...

Top 20 PACs by Total Contributions to State and County Candidates, 2010

1.       Retired Public Employees, $66,000
2.       1199 SEIU MA, $61,500
3.       Professional Firefighters of MA People’s Committee, $55,825
4.       Committee for a Democratic House, $40,500
5.       American Federation of Teachers MA, $40,000
6.       Sheet Metal Workers Local Union 17, $33,975
7.       Beer Distributors, $33,900
8.       MA Association of Realtors – MA RPAC, $33,100
9.       Plumbers Union Local #12, $31,400
10.   Ironworkers Union Local 7, $29,510
11.   Pipefitters Local 537, $28,250
12.   Painters District Council #35, $27,075
13.   Boston Carmen’s Unio, $26,550
14.   MA Correction Officers Federation Union, $26,000
15.   State Police Association of Massachusetts, $25,750
16.   MA Laborers District Council, $24,225
17.   Citizens for LTM Taxation’s 2.5 PAC, $22,700
18.   Massachusetts Brick Layers People’s Committee, $22,550
19.   Massachusetts Nurses, $22,200
20.   International Brotherhood of Electrical Workers Local Union 2222, $21,200

For the complete report on PAC spending, “PACs Break Spending and Contribution Records During the 2009-10 Election Cycle (9-23-11),” go to the web site of the Massachusetts Office of Campaign and Political Finance: www.mass.gov/ocpf


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