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AFSCME Campaigning In Florida For Clinton

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AFSCME, the nation's largest public employee and health care workers union, is campaigning on behalf of Sen. Hillary Clinton in the state of Florida, even as the Senator herself has pledged not to do so.

The union has sent two mailers to an estimated 50,000 to 75,000 people, touting Clinton and urging its members and retirees to vote for her in the January 29 primary. One piece of literature proclaims Clinton a "seasoned fighter" who "knows how to win."

"AFSCME recommends Hillary Clinton for President," the mailer reads. "Hillary Clinton earned AFSCME's support after a rigorous ten month endorsement process. Our members endorsed Hillary because she will change the direction of our country."

Alma Gonzales, special counsel for the union, told the Huffington Post, "I can't tell you whether or not calls have been made [on Clinton's behalf] out of the national office. But I have not gotten any indication that calls were being made."

The efforts by AFSCME come as the candidates themselves have their hands tied in the Sunshine State. All Democratic presidential candidates pledged not to campaign in Florida after the state moved up its primary. The agreement does not prohibit independent groups like AFSCME from advocating on the candidates' behalf in Florida. And officials with union say they have had no contact or nod of approval from the Clinton campaign.

"It is part of what we do when we endorse a candidate, there has been AFSCME activity in all the primary states," said Gonzales. "So I'm sure that if you followed the campaign activity you have seen it in every state. We are not going to abandon our endorsed candidate in Florida because of some DNC rules."

After Florida and Michigan moved up their primary and caucus respectively, the Democratic Party responded by stripping the states of their delegates and pushing a pledge restricting "candidates" from "campaigning or participating" in those two places. Campaigning was defined by DNC rules and regulations and includes such things as fundraising events or hiring fundraising staff.

Gonzalez says that AFSCME is not engaged in such activities. The union is vested in getting supporters to defeat a property tax initiative that could result in job losses.

"We are trying to get them to the polls to vote no on amendment one," Gonzales said. "Our big GOTV effort has been focused on that. The mailers that went out to folks with regard to the Clinton presidential bid are completely separate and really just encourage people to vote for Hillary Clinton."

Nor is AFSCME the only union working in Florida on Clinton's behalf. On Wednesday, the Politico's Ben Smith reported, "The Florida Education Association, the state's largest union, is making its support for Clinton part of its campaign against [a tax-cutting ballot] initiative."

Both Clinton and Barack Obama have pushed the boundaries of the anti-Florida campaigning agreement. This weekend, Obama was accused of violating the pledge by launching a national ad campaign that aired in Florida, although Obama's campaign said it approved the ad buy with South Carolina Democratic officials.

A high-ranking Democratic aide in Florida told the Huffington Post that "there have been rumors that all of the candidates are going to set up shop at some point."