Unions Lift Donations to Republicans

Friday, 18 Nov 2011 01:24 PM

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Unions and Democrats go together like peanut butter and jelly, right? Actually not so much anymore. Unions are increasing the percentage of their donations that go to Republicans, Politico reports.

The shift represents an effort to reward GOP congressmen who have voted in favor of unions, to cultivate freshmen representatives who are on the rise, and to help moderate Republicans fight off challenges from more conservative tea partyers.

So far in this election cycle, the GOP has received 13 percent of union donations, more than double the 6 percent of 2010 and up from 8 percent in 2008 too. That means a little more than $2 million of union spending has gone to Republican coffers, according to data from the Center for Responsive Politics.

Republicans Get Bigger Cut of Union Donations
Pro-union Demonstrators in New Hampshire (AP photo)
While that pales in comparison to the almost $14 million that Democrats have received from unions this time around, the shift is noteworthy. That’s particularly true given that Democrats are fighting for pieces of a shrinking pie. Total donations from labor groups have dropped 26 percent from four years ago, according to Reuters and the CRP.

Union leaders say Democrats better not take them for granted. “I’m not an ATM machine for anybody,” Vincent Panvini, director of governmental affairs at the Sheet Metal Workers International Association, told Politico.

“My members donate their money voluntarily, . . . and we support the people who support us to create jobs, protect their pensions, make sure they work on safe and healthy job sites, and that’s where you go from. That’s why we’re seeing more money going to these moderate Republicans who are putting their necks out against their own party and helping us, and that’s the bottom line.”

Union leaders were particularly grateful to Republicans who helped keep several anti-union provisions off spending bills during the summer.

“When [Republicans] go against their own leadership and support you, you should support them,” Panvini said. “After 2010, you had these tea party people who probably just hate unions, they don’t know [anything] about unions but they hate unions. So you had a group of moderate Republicans really coming to bat.”

Building trade and transportation unions have been particularly generous to Republicans. The National Air Traffic Controllers Association has allocated 45 percent of its donations to Republican candidates this cycle, more than doubling from 17 percent in 2010. The Laborers’ International Union of North America PAC has forked over 24 percent of its contributions to GOP candidates, eight times the 3 percent total for 2010.

Unions have been generous to Republicans who have voted in their favor for years, such as Reps. Steve LaTourette of Ohio, Frank LoBiondo of New Jersey, and Jo Ann Emerson of Missouri. LaTourette and LoBiondo place third and fourth, respectively, on the list of recipients from transportation union PACs, according to the CRP.

The Sheet Metal Workers’ PAC has donated almost $50,000 this year to Republicans, including Reps. Michael Grimm of New York, David McKinley of West Virginia, and Jon Runyan of New Jersey.

Unions are particularly eager to ingratiate themselves with freshmen, who represent Congress’ future after all.

“For the House Republicans in particular, given the 2010 elections, it was important for the building trades department and for our affiliate unions to go out there and introduce ourselves, explain who we are, what we’re about and be, I think, proactive in building those relationships,” Chip Gardiner, director of government affairs at AFL-CIO’s building and construction trades department, told Politico.

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