Union Members Can Stop Subsidizing Liberal Candidates and Causes

 

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A question to conservative Oregon union members (I know you’re out there): Why are you contributing to union political funds when most of the money ends up supporting liberal Democratic candidates?

About 18% of the electorate across the country was from union households in the Nov. 8, 2016 presidential election. Donald Trump captured 43% of those union-household voters.

In Oregon, 14.8 percent of the wage and salary workforce belonged to a union in 2015. It’s not clear how they voted, but it’s likely, based upon national patterns, that a decent share voted Republican.

Still, Oregon’s unions overwhelming endorsed Democrats. For example, all but two of the AFL-CIO’s 2016 Legislative endorsements in Oregon were for Democrats (one was an independent, one a Republican), as were all the statewide candidate endorsements.

Similarly, in the 2016 election, political contributions from Oregon’s unions went overwhelmingly to Democrats. For example, SEIU’s PAC, Citizen Action for Political Education (CAPE), spent $2,001,758.89 on the 2016 election. Of that, $706,750.00 went to Defend Oregon (the group pushing Measure 97), $205,000 to the Committee to Elect Brad Avakian, $180,000 to the Kate Brown Committee, and $37,380 to The Real Mike Nearman Committee (created to defeat Republican Mike Nearman).

So why don’t more union members who disagree with their union’s political stances decline to contribute to their union’s PAC and opt out of supporting the union’s political activities. It’s not that hard to do. All a union member has to do is become an “agency fee payer”, sometimes also called a “Fair Share Payer” or “Non-member.”

Oregon allows public employees who are part of a collective bargaining unit to refuse membership in the union that represents that unit. But because the union still has to negotiate on their behalf, these nonmembers must contribute to cover costs which cover collective bargaining, contract administration and grievance adjustment, but not costs associated with political activities.

This worker right was established in 2012 when the U.S. Supreme Court decided that while employees can be required to pay dues for the direct benefits they get from the union, they can’t be forced to give money to unions for political activities.

According to Steve Buckstein,  Founder and Senior Policy Analyst at Cascade Policy Institute, even before the 2012 Court decision, a telephone company employee named Harry Beck spent over two decades fighting for the right to opt out of paying the political portion of his union dues to the Communications Workers of America. In 1988, the U.S. Supreme Court ruled in his favor in Beck v. CWA and created what are now known as Beck rights. Harry is now retired and lives in Oregon. You can watch him tell his story here: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=a29L3ouJ6tw.

Political spending by unions can be substantial…and influential.

In a Sept. 2015 report to individuals who pay Fair Share fees, the liberal-leaning Oregon Education Association (OEA) said 22.9 percent of its total expenses were nonchargeable for Fair Share fee payers and the liberal-leaning National Education Association (NEA) said a whopping 62.71 percent of its total expenses were nonchargeable for Fair Share fee payers.

This means that if annual OEA dues were $600, they could have been reduced to $462.60 and if annual NEA dues were $185, they could have been reduced to $68.99.

Think of it. Workers, rather than union bosses, deciding for themselves how, or whether, they want to spend their money on political causes.

 

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Lies, damn lies and statistics: SEIU’s campaign for Measure 97

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“Those who lie, twist life so that it looks tasty to the lazy, brilliant to the ignorant, and powerful to the weak,” said José N. Harris, an American author.

Based on pro-Measure 97 arguments being put out there by the Service Employees International Union (SEIU), the union knows all about twisting life.

A flyer just mailed to Oregon households by SEIU says 0.25% of Oregon’s 400,000 businesses would pay more under measure 97. Not so fast.

An analysis by the Oregon Legislative Revenue Office on the potential impacts of Measure 97 (when it was still referred to as Initiative Petition 28) made clear that the actual number of businesses that will pay the new taxes is unknown and trying to pin down an exact number is “particularly risky”. That’s because it’s not known how many businesses will take steps to reduce or eliminate the increased tax triggered by the measure.

Potential tax avoidance strategies, according to the Legislative Revenue Office, include:

o Shifting from a C-Corporation to an S-Corporation or non-corporation status.

o Spinning off subsidiaries into separate businesses to reduce Oregon sales below $25 million on the combined state corporate tax return.

o Using mergers and acquisitions or other methods to adjust where the plurality of services are performed under the cost of performance apportionment methodology.

o Vertically integrating with intermediate suppliers in order to reduce taxable transactions.

o Converting to a benefit company, which would not be subject to the new tax.

The risk of setting a firm number for tax revenue under Measure 97 is heightened further by the fact the direct effect of the measure would be “…so heavily concentrated on a relatively few large corporations, thereby giving them a powerful incentive to develop tax planning strategies,” the Revenue Office concluded.

To the extent businesses do take steps to minimize or avoid the new tax, the predicted revenue may not flow into the state’s coffers, forcing more tough choices.

The SEIU is also guilty of peddling dishonest information when it says in its flyer” “Fact: funding can only be spent to improve education, health care and senior services.” SEIU knows full well that Measure 97 would not limit how the resulting tax revenue could be spent by the legislature.

Measure 97’s spending requirements are meaningless Legislative Counsel Dexter Johnson said in an Aug. 1 letter to Rep. John Davis, R-Wilsonville, a member of the House Committee on Revenue.

If Measure 97 is approved by voters, the Legislature can appropriate its revenues “in any way it chooses,” Johnson said. Not only are Legislators “not bound by the spending requirements” of Measure 97, they can “simply ignore” them,” Johnson added.

And even if Gov. Kate Brown has said, “…I will make sure the funds the measure yields go ­toward schools, health care and seniors, as the voters expect,” she is not bound to that commitment, nor are future governors or legislators.

In its purposeful deceit, the SEIU is revealing its true opinion of Oregonians. As John-Paul Sartre said, “the worst part about being lied to is knowing you weren’t worth the truth.”

 

Who owns Chuck Riley?

Democrat Chuck Riley’s defeat of Republican Bruce Starr on Nov. 4 for Oregon’s 15th District Senate seat cost a ton of money. Now, like a company that’s gone public, his key supporters are going to expect a return on their investments.

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As of Dec. 8, 2014, Riley’s campaign committee, Friends of Chuck Riley, had raised $913,372.33 and spent $889,757.01, according to records on file with the Oregon Secretary of State. The onslaught of campaign cash was so great that the contest ended up being the most expensive state Senate race in Oregon history.

But it was also a very tight race, with Riley finally coming in ahead by just 287 votes out of 39,734 cast. Likely costing Starr the race was the Libertarian candidate, Caitlin Mitchel-Markley, who captured 3,593 votes.

That suggests the next race will be hard fought as well, particularly if no 3rd party candidate runs, and that it will again require a substantial war chest. To create that war chest Riley will have to placate some big givers. After all, it was the big givers who filled his coffers, not the little people.
So who does Chuck Riley owe for his victory?

The biggest cash/in-kind contributors to Friends of Chuck Riley were Riley’s own Democratic Party, unions, a climate change activist, trial lawyers, and two national gun control groups.

The money from the Democratic Party came from two groups, the Senate Democratic Leadership Fund ($174,585.50)
and the Democratic Party of Oregon ($107,577.56), which received significant contributions from some of the same characters as Riley’s committee.

For example, former New York City Mayor Michael Bloomberg’s gun control group, Everytown for Gun Safety, donated $75,000 directly to Friends of Chuck Riley and $50,000 to the Senate Democratic Leadership Fund.

Michael Bloomberg

Michael Bloomberg

Riley’s committee also pulled in $10,000 from the Brady Campaign to Prevent Gun Violence.

Other big contributors to Riley’s Committee included:

• Service Employees International Union (SEIU) $204,460.39

This includes: $193,661.96 from Citizen Action for Political Education of SEIU Local 503; $10,798.43 from Committee on Political Education of SEIU Local 49.

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• Oregon League of Conservation Voters PAC $191,120.02

OLCV made an in-kind contribution of $127,498.50 in the form of a TV ad. The balance was in the form of: cash; in-kind field work, postage, preparation and production of advertising and a phone program. The TV ad money came out of a $130,000.00 contribution to OLCV from NextGen Climate Action Committee, established by billionaire Tom Steyer to help candidates who support the need to deal with climate change.

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• Oregon Trial Lawyers Association PAC $38,477.87

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• Oregon American Federation of State, County
and Municipal Employees (AFSCME) Council 75
Political Soft $17,500.00

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• Oregon Education Association – People for
Improvement of Education $8,342.00

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• Other unions $10,500.00

Joint Council of Teamsters No. 37 Political Fund
$1,750

United Food and Commercial Workers Union Local
555
$4,500

Oregon School Employees Association – Voice of
Involved Classified Employees
$1,000

International Union of Operating Engineers, Local
701 Misc PAC
$250

American Federation of Teachers-Oregon Candidate
PAC
$3,000

All of the above contributions totaled $752,563.34. That’s 85 percent of total expenditures by Riley’s committee.

Compare that with the amount that came in from contributors of $100 or less, about $8000. That’s less than 1 percent of total expenditures by Riley’s committee. Even if all the small contributors had bundled their money in an effort to enhance their potential influence, they would have been a small player. They might as well have spent their money on a nice dinner out.

So, how are we going to know the influence of the big donors on Riley? It’s not going to be easy.

First of all, it’s not clear that the size of Riley’s war chest was the key determinant in his victory. There’s no hard evidence of a constant linear linkage between campaign money and victory, although a candidate does need enough money to deliver key messages to critical audiences.

But now that Riley has been elected, the major donors are likely to influence positions Riley takes.Equally important, large donations to Riley are likely to give certain interests better access to him to influence public policy in general.

Big donors will also probably have an ability to influence the shape and specifics of legislation that’s before Riley much earlier in the legislative process, when it’s harder for the public to detect.

Large donations may also carry the day on critical votes where Riley’s one vote for or against can determine the fate of a bill. “These low salience critical votes present the most likely circumstances for members to repay groups for their financial support,” according to Lynda Powell at the University of Rochester in a paper on The Influence of Campaign Contributions on Legislative Policy.

One thing is clear – the big donors are going to be keeping an eye on Riley, just like big investors keep an eye on the stock market. All investments carry some risk, but the reward for risk can be a great return.

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Merkley’s money: what a difference a term makes

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Things are different now.

When Democrat Jeff Merkley first ran for the U.S. Senate in 2008, he raised a total of $6,512,231.

Now that he’s a Senator, he’s already reported raising $6,286,013 for his reelection and the 2014 race, in theory, hasn’t even begun. The Republicans haven’t even chosen who will run against him.

That means Merkley’s total haul is likely to go much higher as individuals, special interests and Democratic Party funds ramp up their donations to keep him in office.

The two parties are in a no-holds-barred struggle for control of the Senate, where pollsters and analysts think the Republicans have a shot at taking control with a good showing in the November 2014 elections. Merkley isn’t often mentioned as being in a high-risk race, but then former Senator Gordon Smith wasn’t thought to be vulnerable early on either.

With 5 years as a U.S. Senator now behind him, the sources of Merkley’s donations are shifting. A smaller share is coming from individual contributors and twice as much from political action committees (PACs). Also, more unions are stepping up as big contributors, his big donors have less of an Oregon focus and Merkley isn’t having to dig into his own pocket.

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According to the Center for Responsive Politics, contributions to Merkley’s campaign committee for his 2008 campaign and for his 2014 campaign as of Dec. 31, 2013 break down as follows:

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For his 2008 Senate race, Merkley’s largest 10 contributors (individuals and PACs) to his campaign committee were:

JStreetPAC $78,180
Council for a Livable World $55,889
State of Oregon employees $35,050
Oregon Health & Science University $33,964
Moveon.org $26,731
Stoel, Rives et al $23,323
League of Conservation Voters $21,500
Intel Corporation $17,920
Newmark Knight Frank $17,300
Intl. Brotherhood of Electrical Workers $17,200

The largest contributor to his 2008 campaign, Washington, D.C-based JStreetPAC, makes contributions to candidates who support a two-state solution for Israel and Palestine and robust American military aid to Israel. “I am and will continue to be a staunch supporter of the special relationship between the U.S. and Israel,” Merkley said during his 2008 campaign.“I will always seek to ensure its strength and foster its growth.”

The second largest contributor to his 2008 campaign, Council for a Livable World, is a Washington, D.C.-based non-profit advocacy organization dedicated to reducing the danger of nuclear weapons. Merkley subsequently voted in 2010 for a new Strategic Arms Reduction Treaty (START) with Russia and in February 2014, Merkley and Senator Edward J. Markey (D-Mass.) introduced legislation that would cut $100 billion over the next decade from the U.S. nuclear weapons budget.

The bill, S. 2070, would shut down all U.S. missile defense activities, reduce from 12 to eight the number of SSBN(X) ballistic-missile submarines that are set to replace the retiring Ohio-class fleet and limit to eight the number of Ohio-class submarines that can currently be fielded. The bill has been referred to the Senate Committee on Armed Services where its languishing.

The largest 10 contributors (individuals and PACs) to Merkley’s campaign committee for his 2014 race as of the end of 2013 are significantly different, with much less of an Oregon focus:

Votesane PAC $31,250
Thornton & Naumes $25,000
Intel Corporation $22,050
Honeywell Intl. $20,000
Operating Engineers Union $20,000
Intl. Association of Firefighters $18,500
Blue Cross/Blue Shield $17,100
League of Conservation Voters $15,314
American Crystal Sugar $15,000
Communications Workers of America $15,000

Votesane PAC, a non-partisan channel for political donations, has funneled $1.6 million to candidates in the 2014 election cycle, with almost all of it going to Democrats.

The only union showing up in Merkley’s list of top 10 contributors for his 2008 race was the International Brotherhood of Electrical Workers at $17,200. Three unions show up as his biggest contributors for the 2014 race so far with a total of $53,500.

Also making their debut as major Merkley contributors are individuals from Thornton & Naumes, a Boston, Mass. law firm with class action expertise that has represented people claiming they were victims of asbestos and toxic exposure, defective products, financial fraud, and personal injury accidents.. Law firms and lawyers have been the top contributors to Merkley’s 2014 campaign as of Dec. 31, 2013, donating a total of $296,363.

This only reveals, of course, donations up the end of 2013. Expect a lot of shifts as the campaign progresses.

Merkley has already spent $3,045,241, or almost half, of the funds he’s raised since 2008. Recently, the largest single amount has gone to Mandate Media,a Portland-based internet strategy,services,and advertising firm specializing in progressive political candidates and advocacy organizations. Mandate is also associated with BlueOregon, a widely distributed progressive e-newsletter.

The top 5 recipients of the campaign’s recent expenditures were:

Mandate Media $200,485
CHS Mailing $141,305
Kauffman Group $125,163
Linemark Printing $ 71,639
Benenson Strategy Group $ 47,000

It’s important to recognize that much of the money now being spent on campaigns is so-called independent expenditures, spending by groups and individuals who claim they are not coordinating their activities with a candidate’s campaign committee.

In Merkley’s 2008 race, for example, according to FindTheBest, the following outside groups spent about $675,000 in support of his candidacy:

Committee Amount

Service Employees International
Union Committee on Political Education
(SEIU Cope) $430,238
League of Conservation Voters Inc. $145,317
Democratic Senatorial Committee $ 47,746
League of Conservation Voters
Action Fund $ 40,862
Moveon.org Political Action $ 7,026

It’s likely that similarly large amounts of independent expenditures will occur in the 2014 race.

Data sources: The Center for Responsive Politics (http://www.opensecrets.org), a non-profit, non-partisan research group based in Washington, D.C.; FindTheBest (www.findthebest.com; http://bit.ly/1nYKKSA),a network of for-profit websites connected to help consumers and businesses make informed decisions.

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