We all hear a lot about the enormous sums spent by outside groups on the 2010 elections. Most of the complaints aired in the media have been about the U.S. Chamber of Commerce and the conservative issue advocacy groups that are supporting Republican candidates. I therefore was surprised to learn that the biggest spender in this election, other than the two political parties themselves, is the American Federation of State, County, and Municipal Employees (“AFSCME”), a union that represents governmental employees.
It turns out that three of the five biggest spenders this election cycle are unions. According to this article in the Wall Street Journal, AFSCME is the biggest spender by a considerable margin, having shelled out $87.5 million to support Democratic candidates. That is $12.5 million more than the second place finisher, the U.S. Chamber of Commerce, which has spent $75 million. American Crossroads and Crossroads GOP, two groups that have attracted a lot of media attention because of their affiliation with Karl Rove and Ed Gillespie, have collectively spent $65 million. Rounding out the top five are the Service Employees International Union, which has spent $44 million, and the National Education Association, a teachers union that has spent $40 million.
When we hear people complaining about the glut of money in politics, we need to remember that the money flows in from both sides. If Republicans are supposedly in the pockets of business interests because of the political activities of the U.S. Chamber of Commerce, where does that leave Democrats who have received enormous support from government employees and teachers who directly benefited from the federal “stimulus” legislation and the special “stimulus” spending specifically designed to help teachers keep their jobs?
If you are convinced, as I am, about the need to cut government spending as part of the effort to bring the budget into balance — which inevitably will mean cutting the federal spending that helps to support the jobs and benefits of government employees and teachers — you need to be concerned about how much money is being funneled into political campaigns by government employee and teachers unions. Only the hopelessly naive would believe that Democratic politicians who get elected thanks to large-scale union spending are going to take a hard look at government spending cuts that will eliminate union jobs.