- Associated Press - Monday, August 22, 2011

The AFL-CIO hopes to boost its clout by launching a new political action committee that can raise unlimited amounts of money, part of the labor federation’s goal of building a year-round political organizing structure.

Forming a so-called “super labor PAC” would allow the labor umbrella group to raise money from sympathetic donors both inside and outside its union membership and mobilize support beyond its traditional base, instead of ramping up political activities each election cycle.

The move would also help steer more of labor’s money to state legislative battles, where unions have been battling efforts to curb union rights in states such as Wisconsin and Ohio.

“The essential idea is that changes in the law for the first time really allow the labor movement to speak directly to workers, whether they have collective-bargaining agreements or not,” AFL-CIO political director Michael Podhorzer said in an interview.


Labor leaders discussed the plan at the AFL-CIO executive council meetings earlier this month, but officials said the idea remains subject to final approval over the next few weeks.

Both GOP- and Democratic-leaning super PACs have flourished since a landmark 2010 Supreme Court ruling that allows corporations and unions to spend unlimited cash in support of, or against, candidates for elected office. The super PACs must operate independently of candidates.

Unions remain a pillar of the Democratic Party, spending about $400 million to help elect President Obama in 2008 and directing an additional $200 million to help Democrats during the 2010 midterm elections. That includes both campaign contributions and extensive get-out-the-vote efforts that help steer voters from union households to the polls.

But AFL-CIO President Richard Trumka has warned that the federation may spend less money on congressional elections and more on state races, where they face aggressive GOP efforts to limit collective-bargaining rights and cut back benefits for unionized public employees.

Many union leaders are frustrated that their money has not bought more meaningful support for the union agenda in Congress. Some activists want to reallocate more resources to bolster grass-roots support in the states.

“They could attract new kinds of money, and to the degree they could be successful with that, it opens up a whole new avenue for contributing and opportunities for spending,” said Sheila Krumholz, executive director of the watchdog group Center for Responsive Politics.