Monday, July 28, 2008

Forced political donations

The Wall Street Journal highlights how some labor unions are getting the tens of millions of dollars that they are spending on this year's election.
The mighty Service Employees International Union (SEIU) plans to spend some $150 million in this year's election, most of it to get Barack Obama and other Democrats elected. Where'd they get that much money?

That's a question the Departments of Labor and Justice are being asked to investigate by the National Right to Work Legal Defense Foundation. Specifically, the labor watchdog group wants Justice to query a new SEIU policy that appears to coerce local workers into funding the parent union's national political priorities.

The union adopted a new amendment to its constitution at last month's SEIU convention, requiring that every local contribute an amount equal to $6 per member per year to the union's national political action committee. This is in addition to regular union dues. Unions that fail to meet the requirement must contribute an amount in "local union funds" equal to the "deficiency," plus a 50% penalty. According to an SEIU union representative, this has always been policy, but has now simply been formalized.

No other major institution could get away with its bosses demanding that every single one of its workers step in line behind its political preferences. This is the sort of imposed political obeisance that infuriates so many workers and turns them away from unions.
And once the Democrats get increased majorities in Congress plus a Democratic president, they will pass the oxymoronic check-off provision to allow unions to win a vote without having secret ballots. Using peer pressure and intimidation, they'll attempt to spread unionization in places where it's been declining. And if the SEIU gets away with these forced contributions this year, expect other unions to follow their example.

Even when the FEC later decides that some of the actions of private groups have violated the law, the fines were dwarfed by the actual contributions that those groups made to the election.
The Federal Election Commission later imposed a $775,000 penalty on ACT for violating campaign finance laws, the largest ever against a 527. Big as it was, the fine equaled less than one cent on the dollar for the $100 million that ACT improperly used to influence a national election. [SEIU President] Mr. Stern was only a founder of ACT. But the political lesson is that the benefit of breaking the rules and potentially winning an election far outweighs a minuscule financial penalty well after the outcome is decided.
The fines should match the amount spent. Now that would be a deterrent.