Trumka Should Thank Citizens United Instead of Complaining

According to the National Journal, labor unions are planning a door-to-door “grassroots” campaign to help Obama get re-elected because, according to Richard L. Trumka, the A.F.L.-C.I.O. president, they simply can’t compete with the fundraising efforts of the super PACs. “We’ll never be able to match them with money,” Trumka says.

If Trumka is being sincere then someone should should start providing him with different news sources because according to a 2010 Atlantic piece, unions outspent corporations by nearly three-to-one. And there’s no mystery as to why this happens. From the Atlantic:

Corporations certainly have political interests, but they aren’t overtly political organizations like unions. Unions collect dues for the expressed purpose of pushing the legal discourse towards workers’ interests. Corporations may have deeper pockets on a whole, but they generally care a lot more about using their money to please share shareholders than politicians…

As explained here, the Citizens United ruling might matter more on the regional level. In elections and races where local interests are paramount, you may now see small businesses spend more, since unions will be focused on the big races. The statistics above don’t reflect non-federal spending, so the proportions could be different. Before, small businesses were largely kept out of the lobbying game, since they could only contribute to a political action committee, which generally provided them little voice on regional issues.

We’ll see how the federal numbers change once the general election cycle hits. The verdict above isn’t final. But it’s likely an early indicator that unions will outspend corporations. 

So, what do those federal number look like in the run-up to November? Well, pretty much the same…According to a poll conducted by American Crossroads, unions are outspending their corporate counterparts at the federal level as well:

When combined, the three largest super PACs supporting Republican presidential candidates have spent much less than the AFSCME’s total for 2010. Restore Our Future, which supports Gov. Mitt Romney, has spent about $31 million. Winning Our Future, which backs Newt Gingrich, has spent about $17 million. And the Red, White, and Blue Fund, which supports Rick Santorum, has spent about $5 million.

The $53 million that those three super PACs spent collectively backing GOP candidates is a “drop in the bucket” compared with the money that unions, PACs, and Super PACS are expected to spend to support Democratic efforts.

So Trumka, if you want to engage in your grassroots foot race by all means do so. But perhaps instead of seeking sympathy for your fabricated failure to compete against corporations in the fundraising game, you should give a nod of thanks to Citizens United and SpeechNow for allowing you to give unlimited amounts to super PACs that support union candidates.






The Center for Competitive Politics is now the Institute for Free Speech.