Recent public-opinion surveys show that three-quarters of those interviewed question whether Congress knows what it’s doing in dealing with the nation’s worst economic problems since the Great Depression.
Undoubtedly, millions of those who hold that view are rank-and-file union members. They may get even more annoyed when they learn that union leaders are spending hundreds of millions of dollars to protect the incumbent Democratic majority. They’re apt to get downright furious when they learn that two leading Democrats in Congress — Sen. Charles Schumer, D-N.Y., and Rep. Chris Van Hollen, D-Md. — have introduced a bill designed to stifle critics of what the Democratic Congress has done in the past two years.
Just last week, The Hill reported that at least two major unions will spend close to $100 million to re-elect the present majority, in which three-fourths of Americans have so little confidence. The two unions are the American Federation of State, County and Municipal Employees and the Service Employees International Union. AFSCME has pledged to spend up to $50 million, and SEIU is designating $44 million for Democratic incumbency protection. A third labor group, the AFL-CIO, said it will spend heavily to help Democrats in 60 to 70 House races, but won’t say how much it will devote to the campaign.
Gerald McEntee, AFSCME’s president, candidly told The Hill that his union’s big spending campaign will go to “protect incumbency in the House. We’ve got to protect the incumbency in the Senate.” He also admitted that “it’s going to be hard, those tea baggers are out there. There is an anti-incumbency mood out there.”
McEntee is just doing what Big Labor bosses have been doing for decades: spending their members’ dues money to elect and re-elect Democrats. Campaign-finance data going back to 1989 reveals that six of the top 10 groups designated as “Heavy Hitters” by the Center for Responsive Politics are labor unions. AFSCME ranks second on the list and SEIU 10th. More than 90 percent of their contributions went to Democrats.
Schumer and Van Hollen’s bill — the DISCLOSE Act of 2010 — would reverse the Supreme Court’s recent Citizens United decision upholding the right of individual citizens — acting in concert with each other in corporations, labor unions, trade associations and independent citizens groups — to pay for TV spots critical of incumbent congressmen during the often-decisive final months of a campaign. As U.S. Chamber of Commerce head Thomas J. Donohue said, the bill “is an unconstitutional attempt to silence free speech. It’s un-American and it must be stopped.”