- The Washington Times - Monday, July 2, 2012

One of the nation’s largest unions has teamed with a Democratic super PAC to run $20 million in advertising aimed at keeping House seats out of Republican hands, according to plans announced Monday.

The partnership between the Service Employees International Union (SEIU) and the House Majority PAC, which most recently helped Democrats hang on to former Rep. Gabrielle Giffords’ Arizona seat, marks the continuation of efforts to consolidate the work of multiple Democratic groups. In March, the House Majority PAC joined with the Majority PAC, its Senate-focused cousin, and Priorities USA Action, an Obama-blessed super PAC focused on the presidential race, to form an umbrella group called Unity 2012.

The advertising blitz will cover at least 47 competitive congressional districts nationwide and involve media buys in 38 markets.

Democrats need a net gain of 25 seats to win back the House.

The 2.1-million-member SEIU will pay for less than 20 percent of the ad campaign’s cost, but under the new rules of the Supreme Court’s landmark Citizens United decision, the union’s biggest contribution may come in providing manpower, not cash.

Last month, SEIU began one of the largest political efforts of its kind, taking advantage of newly relaxed campaign finance rules to send members knocking on the doors of thousands of homes that would have previously been off-limits. Prior to Citizens United, the union’s work targeting members had to be separate from any work aimed at swaying the general voting base.

SEIU members across the country are working hard to inform voters about where candidates stand on key issues facing working families, and to elect candidates up and down the ballot who will fight for working families,” SEIU National Political Director Brandon Davis said in a statement. “This partnership with House Majority PAC will ensure that the work being done by SEIU member volunteers at the doors, on the phones and in the neighborhoods is backed up by a vigorous paid media campaign.”

Democrats are counting on volunteers to compete against donations from Republican supporters they acknowledge they cannot match.

“The Koch brothers, Sheldon Adelson and Karl Rove have deep pockets, but House Majority PAC has a proven ability to spend efficiently and effectively and win races — just like in the NY-26 and AZ-08 specials when we won despite being outspent by Republican groups,” said Alixandria Lapp, the super PAC’s executive director, in a statement.

Political spending is expected to break all records this year, especially after the Supreme Court last week reaffirmed its 2010 Citizens United case allowing for limitless political donations from corporations, labor unions and individuals.

In May, House Majority PAC spent almost $1 million supporting Democrat Julia Brownley over her independent opponent Linda Parks in California’s 26th district. Ms. Brownley emerged victorious in the primary election.

It spent $300,000 opposing Robert Cornilles in a special Oregon election in January. Mr. Cornilles was defeated by Suzanne Bonamici.

In all, the political action committee has spent $2.1 million on ads, mostly negative, while its Senate counterpart has spent $3.1 million, mostly positive.

Some of the House Majority PAC’s top sources of cash have been labor unions, records show. The Laborers’ Political League Education Fund gave $350,000, the firefighters' union gave $250,000, a teachers’ union and food workers’ union each gave $200,000, and the SEIU has given $185,000. Trial lawyers have also been key contributors.