07/10/2012 07:07 pm ET

HUFFPOST FUNDRACE -- Unions Spend A Lot Of Money On Politics

Do unions spend a lot of money on politics? The Wall Street Journal answers this question. The answer is yes, by the way. WSJ: "Organized labor spends about four times as much on politics and lobbying as generally thought, according to a Wall Street Journal analysis, a finding that shines a light on an aspect of labor's political activity that has often been overlooked. Previous estimates have focused on labor unions' filings with federal election officials, which chronicle contributions made directly to federal candidates and union spending in support of candidates for Congress and the White House. But unions spend far more money on a wider range of political activities, including supporting state and local candidates and deploying what has long been seen as the unions' most potent political weapon: persuading members to vote as unions want them to. The new figures come from a little-known set of annual reports to the Labor Department in which local unions, their national parents and labor federations have been required to detail their spending on politics and lobbying since 2005. ...The usual measure of unions' clout encompasses chiefly what they spend supporting federal candidates through their political-action committees, which are funded with voluntary contributions, and lobbying Washington, which is a cost borne by the unions' own coffers. These kinds of spending, which unions report to the Federal Election Commission and to Congress, totaled $1.1 billion from 2005 through 2011, according to the nonpartisan Center for Responsive Politics. The unions' reports to the Labor Department capture an additional $3.3 billion that unions spent over the same period on political activity."

The AFL-CIO disagrees in a letter: "By labeling all union legislative and issue advocacy into “political” in the same sense as partisan candidate elections, the Wall Street Journal misuses a routine government report (the “Form LM2”) not designed for the purposes to which they deploy it. Conflating issue advocacy on behalf of working people with electoral politics means treating as “election-related” everything from expert input into the formulation of mine safety rules to assisting the civil rights community, be it the 1963 March on Washington or voting protection efforts year-round."

The AFL-CIO makes many other points, perhaps the most important being that the WSJ article includes all state, local and federal lobbying and advocacy expenses. Corporate expenses on these areas are certainly far larger than what unions spend -- although due to the patchwork of lobbying disclosure laws throughout the nation there is little way to get a full accounting.

HuffPost's Jason Linkins comments on the WSJ piece, "...the hot new thing in obscene amounts of money being collected to influence politics isn't super PACs. As The New York Times' Mike McIntire and Nicholas Confessore reported three days ago, 'there is growing evidence that large corporations are trying to influence campaigns by donating money to tax-exempt organizations that can spend millions of dollars without being subject to the disclosure requirements that apply to candidates, parties and PACs.' Emphasis, of course, on the 'without being subject to the disclosure requirements' part. After all, while the Walll Street Journal managed to happen upon 'a little-known set of annual reports to the Labor Department,' the point is that these annual reports actually exist. By contrast, the New York Times reports that as far as these new tax-exempt organizations go, '[t]he secrecy shrouding these groups makes a full accounting of corporate influence on the electoral process impossible.' ...At any rate, it's really hard to read both of these pieces back-to-back and come away with the impression that labor unions are doing anything other than competing on the junior-varsity level of campaign finance activity. The real action is with these tax-exempt organizations that ostensibly exist for some sort of vague 'social welfare' purpose, but actually fund 2012 political ads."

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Sheldon Adelson dumps more money into a super PAC.

Another associate of D.C. Mayor Vincent Gray plead guilty in an ongoing investigation into the mayor's campaign. Apparently, there was a shadow campaign of secret money being used outside of campaign laws.

How does fundraising work? CQ Roll Call asks a professional fundraiser.

What's the strategy behind the Bain attacks? WaPo's Greg Sargent talks to Priorities USA Action pollster Geoff Garin, "'First, it goes to the heart of his primary rational for being better on the economy,' Garin said. 'Second, once people have learned that Romney was willing to fire workers and terminate health and pension benefits while taking tens of millions out of companies, they are much more ready to understand that Romney would indeed cut Social Security and Medicare to give tax breaks to rich people like himself. This provides a foundation to build the core policy critique against Romney.'"

David Plouffe states that the Obama team "always knew" Romney would outraise them.


Help us populate our list of campaign videos. Send any notable TV, radio or web ads that you see to Fundrace. Send your submissions to paulblumenthal@huffingtonpost.com.

Committee: Barack Obama for President
Candidate Opposed: Mitt Romney
Spot: "Why is Mitt Romney Hiding the Rest of His Tax Returns"
Market: YouTube.
Buy: None. Just a web video.

Committee: American Future Fund
Candidate Opposed: Barack Obama
Spot: "Better or Worse"
Market: Iowa.
Buy: Undisclosed.

Committee: Crossroads GPS
Candidate Opposed: Jon Tester
Spot: "Voice"
Market: Montana.
Buy: Part of $2.5 million ad buy.

Committee: Crossroads GPS
Candidate Opposed: Sherrod Brown
Spot: "Show"
Market: Ohio.
Buy: Part of $2.5 million ad buy.

Committee: Crossroads GPS
Candidate Opposed: Tim Kaine
Spot: "Ants"
Market: Virginia.
Buy: Part of $2.5 million ad buy.

Committee: American Commitment
Candidate Opposed: Heidi Heitkamp
Spot: "Cheering"
Market: North Dakota.
Buy: $115,000.

Committee: Democratic Senatorial Campaign Committee
Candidate Opposed: Rick Berg
Spot: "Priorities"
Market: North Dakota.
Buy: Undisclosed.

Committee: Jon Tester for Senate
Candidate Opposed: Denny Rehberg
Spot: "Congressman Dennis Rehberg's Health Plan"
Market: Montana.
Buy: Undisclosed.

Committee: Sarah Steelman for Senate
Spot: "Sarah Steelman Discusses the 2nd Amendment"
Market: Missouri.
Buy: Undisclosed.

Committee: Sarah Steelman for Senate
Candidate Opposed: John Brunner
Spot: "Real Missouri"
Market: Missouri.
Buy: Undisclosed.

Committee: Pete Hoekstra for Senate
Spot: "Michigan Solutions"
Market: Michigan.
Buy: Undisclosed.

Committee: Ted Cruz for Senate
Candidate Opposed: David Dewhurst
Spot: "Dewhurst Deceives on Payroll Tax"
Market: Texas.
Buy: Undisclosed.

Committee: David Dewhurst for Senate
Spot: "Full Repeal"
Market: Texas.
Buy: Undisclosed.

Committee: Heather Wilson for Senate
Spot: "Proud"
Market: New Mexico.
Buy: Undisclosed.

Committee: Rick Berg for Senate
Spot: "Katie Anderson, Mayor of Jamestown, Endorses Rick Berg"
Market: North Dakota. (Radio)
Buy: Undisclosed.

Committee: American Action Network
Candidate Opposed: Ed Perlmutter
Spot: "TVAD CO07"
Market: Colorado's 7th District.
Buy: Undisclosed.

Committee: American Action Network
Candidate Opposed: Mark Schauer
Spot: "TVAD MI07"
Market: Michigan's 7th District.
Buy: Undisclosed.

Committee: American Action Network
Candidate Opposed: Scott Keadle
Spot: "Layers"
Market: North Carolina's 8th District.
Buy: Undisclosed.

Committee: Ben Quayle for Congress
Spot: "Estimate"
Market: Arizona's 6th District.
Buy: Undisclosed.

Committee: Tulsi Gabbard for Congress
Spot: "What Matters"
Market: Hawaii's 2nd District.
Buy: Undisclosed.

Committee: AFL-CIO
Spot: "The Boehner Bunch"
Market: YouTube.
Buy: None. Just a web video.


These numbers represent spending by independent groups, like super PACs and non-profits, to support or oppose a particular candidate in 2012. Fundrace will update this spending daily to help show which candidates are gaining from the proliferation of independent groups in this coming election.

Presidential Race:
Mitt Romney (R), $7,337,304 to support, $21,038,167 to oppose
Barack Obama (D), $891,253 to support, $9,731,038 to oppose. (Oppose: +$24,000)

Most Outside Spending for Congressional Candidates:
TX-Senate: Ted Cruz (R), $1,056,303 to support, $2,384,344 to oppose.
TX-Senate: David Dewhurst (R), $536,126 to support, $2,514,378 to oppose.
IN-Senate: Richard Mourdock (R), $1,454,11 to support, $1,280,052 to oppose.
OH-SEN: Josh Mandel (R), $183,235 to support, $1,739,326 to oppose.
IN-Senate: Dick Lugar (R), $208,628 to support, $2,160,814 to oppose.


Direct Selling Association, $17,674 to support Fred Upton for Congress in MIchigan's 6th District.
FreedomWorks for America, $96,177 to support Ted Cruz for Senate in Texas.
YG Action Fund, $380,725 to oppose Scott Keadle for Congress in North Carolina's 8th District.
America's Next Generation, $24,000 to oppose Barack Obama for President.
Patriot Majority USA, $220,200 to oppose Dean Heller for Senate in Nevada.
Women Vote!, $114,836 to oppose Tommy Thompson for Senate in Wisconsin.
Women Vote!, $114,836 to oppose Eric Hovde for Senate in Wisconsin.
Women Vote!, $2,737 to oppose Mark Neumann for Senate in Wisconsin.



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