THE UNIONS WILL SPEND OVER $100 MILLION ON DEMOCRATS THIS FALL

May 25, 2010

At least two influential unions will spend close to $100 million on the 2010 election, with most of those funds going to protect incumbents.

Union officials have reported to several sources that they plan to help endangered members — particularly freshmen — who made politically difficult votes in a year during which an anti-incumbent mood has filled the country. And the number will be even higher since the AFL-CIO declined to give its figures.

While the labor movement has displayed an aggressive tack in Democratic primaries, including supporting some challengers over incumbents, it remains concerned about the party retaining its congressional majorities. As a result, it plans an enormous spending spree to help ensure Democratic control of Congress.

The American Federation of State, County and Municipal Employees (AFSCME) plans to spend in excess of $50 million during the 2010 campaign, part of which will fund “a massive incumbent protection program,” according to Gerry McEntee, president of the union.

AFSCME spent roughly $67 million on its political activities in 2008. But the $50 million slated for the 2010 elections is the largest expenditure the union will make in a midterm election, according to union officials. The money will go to help defend the union’s top tier of eight Senate seats and 34 House members.

McEntee says that AFSCME has "to protect the incumbency in the House. We have got to protect the incumbency in the Senate. It is going to be hard. Those tea-baggers are out there. There is an anti-incumbency mood out there.”

After the top tier, there will be a second tier of House candidates AFSCME will be monitoring and will step in to help defend if they become endangered by GOP challengers.

McEntee said that his union is not out looking for new seats. "We have our hands full the way it is,” he said.  He has been a key voice in pushing labor to play in Democratic primaries.

The Service Employees International Union (SEIU) plans to spend $44 million in total on its 2010 election program. The union spent $85 million on its 2008 campaign, according to union officials.

SEIU has a list of 15 top-priority House districts across the country that it plans to campaign in to protect members who voted for the healthcare reform bill. Among those who will see support from the national union are Reps. John Boccieri (D-Ohio), Bill Foster (D-Ill.), Betsy Markey (D-Colo.), Tom Perriello (D-Va.), Gary Peters (D-Mich.) and Dina Titus (D-Nev.).

Jon Youngdahl, national political director for the SEIU said “in the past, we have not paid as much attention to incumbent protection as we have this year." He went on to sayd that also in past years decisions were made on electoral opportunities and this year decisions are being made on the healthcare reform accountability.

For the SEIU, the 2010 campaign began in the fall of 2009 during the House’s first healthcare reform vote. The union has already spent $3 million on three rounds of television ads thanking members for backing the legislation.

A third labor group said it plans to spend big in 2010 but wouldn’t get into specific numbers. Karen Ackerman, the AFL-CIO’s political director, told reporters on Wednesday that the labor federation will be active in 18 states, will campaign in gubernatorial and Senate races and will likely have a role in 60 to 70 House races this election.

She declined to give a dollar amount.

Ackerman noted that the field is very large, maybe even more races than there was in 2008. The AFL-CIO official said the labor movement sees 2010 as "a very hard election, maybe the hardest yet” and wants to see the “many, many good progressive members of Congress” return to Capitol Hill.

Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid (D-Nev.) will be the most important test of labor’s efforts to save incumbent lawmakers. Based in a state with high unemployment and a high home foreclosure rate, Reid is facing a tough reelection race this year. Consequentially, unions are revving up their general-election campaigns three months earlier than usual, as soon as Reid’s Republican challenger is picked in the June 8 primary.

Noting that Harry Reid has done more for Nevada, Danny Thompson, the exeuctive secretary-treasurer of the Nevada State AFL-CIO says his re-election bid is their single focus. "Harry Reid has done more for the state — more than anyone in history.” The state's AFL-CIO has more than 200,000 members.

The state labor federation has a three-pronged program in place: a worksite initiative, from construction sites to casinos, where workers will lobby other workers to vote for Reid, target union members for door-to-door campaigning and then direct-mail pieces paid for by the national union.

Thompson said he believes the labor vote will be key to Reid’s reelection, estimating it makes up to 32 to 34 percent of the vote in Nevada. “We are right now putting everything in place. The people who will be running the campaign are in place. The structure is in place. We are ready to go,” Thompson said.

Another senator who will have stout labor backing is Barbara Boxer (D-Calif.). The communications director for the California Labor Federation says they will be devoting more resources to the 2010 campaign than has ever been given in any prior campaign in their history. Electing California Attorney General Jerry Brown (D) as governor and reelecting Boxer to the Senate are the state federation’s two highest priorities. But the labor group is also looking to protect a trio of House members based in the Central Valley region who took tough votes in favor of healthcare reform.

California Reps. Dennis Cardoza (D), Jim Costa (D) and Jerry McNerney (D) could be facing stiff GOP opposition this November. This union is 2.1 million members strong and has been preparing for months, microtargeting non-union members in the region who share the same priorities with labor to find more votes for the Democrats.

Unions are aware that some of the most endangered incumbents in 2010 are the freshmen who voted for the healthcare reform bill.

In Virginia, labor groups are moving to protect freshman Reps. Gerry Connolly (D) and Perriello.

Tom Perriello will have priority with his state's AFL-CIO.  According to Doris Crouse-Mays, the secretary-treasurer: “Along with Gerry Connolly, they will definitely get protection for the healthcare vote.”  The union has some 15,000 members in Connolly’s district and 2,500 in Perriello’s whom it plans to mobilize ahead of November.

Crouse-Mays said the union would also support Rep. Rick Boucher (D-Va.), a 14-term incumbent who didn’t vote for the healthcare bill. “He’s still a 28-year incumbent who’s been there for working families in the past,” she said.

In Illinois, unions are working to protect Foster and Rep. Debbie Halvorson (D), two freshman members who voted for the healthcare bill. The executive director of the SEIU’s state council says the action is going to be in Halvorson and Foster, so we’re going to put a lot of effort there. SEIU plans to focus on voter registration, early voting and then get-out-the-vote efforts,

The SEIU is also targeting the state’s open Senate seat and the House seat vacated by Rep. Mark Kirk (R-Ill.).

A similar strategy is being used in Ohio by the state’s branch of the SEIU. Anthony Caldwell, a union spokesman notes that they have already made contributions to candidates who supported working families in Ohio. Caldwell noted that freshman Reps. Boccieri, Mary Jo Kilroy (D) and Steve Driehaus (D), who voted for healthcare reform, are all expected to have tough reelection races.

One member who won’t be getting support: Rep. Zack Space (D-Ohio). He angered labor groups by voting against the healthcare bill and will have to go without their help in his reelection bid.

Around the country, not one Republican will be receiving support from the AFL-CIO, SEIU or AFSCME. There just doesn't seem to be enough money in their coffers for anymore "change."

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