Pro-Union Types Complaining About Money in Politics? Priceless

Charles P. Pierce in his natural habitat (Wikipedia)

Charles P. Pierce in his natural habitat (Wikipedia)

The four-eyed, multi-chinned, monomaniacal hack-in-residence at the glorified lad mag Esquire is really upset about a Supreme Court case he doesn’t quite seem to understand. (If you’re interested in the details of the case—which revolves around a woman who doesn’t belong to a union being forced to pay dues to it in order to get money from the state to care for her severely disabled son—check out Bill McMorris’s piece.) Charles P. Pierce, you see, is super-duper concerned about money in politics! Special interest groups have used their bucks to get money diverted into their pockets! Rabble rabble rabble!

Pierce invokes the dread phrase of our day, Koch Brothers. The evil Kochs, with all their money, buying up politicians left and right. If only there was some sort of counterbalance to them, some sort of left wing agitators using their deep pockets to divert the public funds into their pockets. If only … what? Public sector unions? What about them? What do they have to do with money in politics?

The politically powerful Service Employees International Union (SEIU) has pocketed more than $50 million from home healthcare workers forced to pay union dues by two Democratic governors in Illinois, according to new study.

Documents obtained by the Illinois Policy Institute (IPI) revealed that the union received $52 million from home healthcare workers, including many people caring for physically disabled relatives, between 2008 and 2013.

Certainly you wouldn’t be so gauche as to suggest that unions are influencing political outcomes by spending hundreds of millions of dollars on elections, would you? What’s that? It’s more than hundreds of millions of dollars?

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. [Emp. mine]

What? A deep-pocketed outfit spent more than four billion dollars on electioneering between 2005 and 2011? Then of course there are the contributions to candidates and PACs, a figure Open Secrets pegs at over $143M for 2012 alone. This is shocking stuff. I’m sure Pierce will be all over it as soon as he stops screaming “The Koch Brothers are coming! The Koch Brothers are coming!” at the top of his lungs.