I got a friendly personal note from Senator Jeff Merkley the other day. Well, it was addressed to me and had his signature, so I think it was personal.
Anyway, he told me that if I’m “fed up with special interests always getting their way in Washington” he needs my help because “the special interests that are used to calling the shots are hell-bent on defeating me in 2014.” And in a kind of ironic twist, he said he needs lots of money because every supporter he adds today will be “a rejection of the big money politics that’s created a government by and for the powerful.”
This is the same man who has raised nearly $8 million from the special interests that he embraces, particularly unions, lawyers and law firms, and real estate interests. In the DC game, it’s more a matter of picking your poison than staying pure.
During 2009 -2014, principal contributors to Merkley’s campaign have been:
|Industry||Total raised From Individuals||From PACS|
|Real estate interests||$146,868||$74,358||$72,510|
|Building trade unions||$117,000||0||$117,000|
The lawyer/law firm contributors include the American Association for Justice, also known as the Association of Trial Lawyers of America ($26,000) and the Boston-based law firm, Thornton & Naumes ($25,000). Thornton & Naumes is a heavy hitter in the contributions game, having contributed $326,250 so far during the 2014 election cycle. That made it the top contributor to 23 members of Congress, all but one a Democrat.
The trial lawyers have been long-time big-time money machine for the Democratic Party. Already losing tort-reform battles in states run by Republican governors and legislatures, and threatened by the GOP-led House, the trial lawyers are deathly afraid of having to deal with a GOP-led Senate, too, so they’re manning the barricades and handing out cash..
Another special interest heavily invested in Merkley is the real estate industry, blamed by some for exacerbating the housing collapse by promoting easy-credit policies.
Then there are the unions. Now there’s a special interest. Unions making big contributions to Merkley in the 2014 election cycle include:
- International Brotherhood of Electrical Workers, $30,000
- Communications Workers of America, $25,000
- National Electrical Contractors Assn., $25,000
- International Association of Fire Fighters, $23,500
- Operating Engineers Union, $20,000
- Teamsters Union, $20,000
- Painters & Allied Trades Union, $18,000
- International Longshoremen’s Association, $18,000
- International Association of State/County/Municipal Employees, $16,500.
In 2013, the union membership rate–the percent of wage and salary workers who were members of unions–was 11.3 percent, according to the federal Bureau of Labor Statistics. The number of wage and salary workers belonging to unions, was 14.5 million.
The strongest union representation in 2013 was with public-sector workers, which had a union membership rate (35.3 percent) more than five times higher than that of private-sector workers (6.7 percent). This reflects a fairly steady decline in union membership over the years. Thirty years ago, for example, the union membership rate was 20.1 percent, and there were 17.7 million union workers.
Unions in the United States are waging an aggressive effort to maintain their membership and to support union-friendly government policies. And Merkley’s on board.