The Machinists Union lodge in the Puget Sound — the guys whose complaint led to the National Labor Relations Board's decision that could force Boeing to shrink back from its expansion into South Carolina — has a new newsletter out asking members to allow a payroll deduction to the union's political action committee.
The union explicitly states that such campaign contributions buy access. Here's the relevant passage:
Q) What difference will my small contribution make when it takes so much money to elect a candidate?
A) STRENGTH IN NUMBERS – By itself, your contribution does not mean much. But then, your voice alone would not mean much in improving your wages, hours, and working conditions.
When we pool our MNPL dollars, like we pool our strength in collective bargaining, we are strong. Collectively, MNPL money gains your Union access to officials, which is critical to get our issues addressed and ensure our input is heard.
This is nothing scandalous. It's just unusually honest.
The overly cynical understanding of political action committee contributions to candidates is that they are bribes — in exchange for a few thousand dollars, a politician will provide favors to organization behind the PAC. This rarely happens.
The overly innocent understanding of campaign cash is that they are like yard signs — companies or unions trying to help their preferred candidate win. It's rarely this simple.
The most accurate understanding, in my opinion, is that companies and organizations use PAC contributions to gain access to politicians — to make sure they get a seat at a table. The MNPL item above confirms this.