WASHINGTON -- A super PAC affiliated with the labor federation AFL-CIO will announce on Tuesday that it has raised $3.7 million. It currently has $3 million of that amount on hand.
The funds raised by the group, Workers' Voice, falls short of the massive amounts of money that have been accumulated (and spent) by super PACs allied with the presidential candidates. But for the purposes originally outlined by the 11-million strong union federation, it will serve an important function.
This past summer, AFL-CIO President Richard Trumka began outfitting his political operation with a super PAC for the purposes of funding a multi-cycle, issue advocacy and get-out-the-vote effort.
"What we are now focused on is doing a couple of things differently," Trumka told The Huffington Post in late August. "In the past, we would build our structure six to eight months before the election. Now we're not going to do that. We're going to focus our resources on building a structure that has total fidelity towards America's working people, both union and non-union working people. We'll do it 12 months a year, so they'll be able to transition from electoral politics, to advocacy, to accountability with no effort. And it will continue to build greater strength for workers after the election and in between elections."
Coming so shortly after Democrats bemoaned the quick rise of anonymous spending by third-party groups in the 2010 elections, the launch of the AFL-CIO's super PAC drew jeers from conservative critics. But Trumka, like others in the progressive community, saw it as a clear necessity in the new, less regulated world of campaign finance laws.
Like other super PACs, the ALF-CIO's Workers' Voice can raise unlimited funds from corporations, individuals and other unions. Unlike other Democratic-leaning groups, however, it is spending nothing on television advertisements, meaning that its operating costs are dramatically lower.
"The Super PAC is a key component of the AFL-CIO’s move toward mobilizing working people in communities year round around jobs and other issues, candidates, and holding elected leaders accountable," said Alison Omens, a spokesperson for Workers' Voice. "As part of our grassroots program, it will empower working people to talk to their friends, neighbors, and coworkers about the direction of our country and taking action to restore balance to our economy. While others use Super PACs for shadow spending and endless television ads, the AFL-CIO’s Workers' Voice is about having real conversations in neighborhoods across the country, not 30 second spots on TV."
Three million dollars can, of course, be spent quickly during the course of a presidential campaign. But the expectation is that donors will start writing more checks once the Republican primary ends, congressional elections pick up, and November 2012 approaches.