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EDITORIAL: Union pickpockets

How the public pays for Democratic campaigns

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The Obama administration and its allies have no shame. Devout Christians are forced to pay for abortions that violate their conscience. The public treasury is regularly raided to pay for Democratic voter-registration projects. The Internal Revenue Service pays the salaries of hundreds of full-time union organizers.

Documents obtained by Americans for Limited Government reveal that the tax agency has more than 200 employees on its payroll to take care of union business, not taxpayer business. Each one of them earns up to $140,000 a year on what's called "official time," a practice that began in 1978 as part of the Civil Service Reform Act. Despite the name, there was not much reform, and there's nothing official about the work they do.

Franklin D. Roosevelt, a Democratic icon, once warned about the inherent problem of allowing unions in the government. "The process of collective bargaining, as usually understood," FDR said, "cannot be transplanted into the public service." He delivered the warning when unions were far less involved in politics, and presidents felt unafraid to speak their mind.

The unions are the lifeblood of the Democratic Party. The Center for Responsive Politics reckons the American Federation of State, County and Municipal Employees union is the No. 1 contributor to political campaigns. This public-sector union spent $81 million of its compulsory dues in outside spending, lobbying and campaign contributions last year. Democratic candidates collected 99 percent of the swag. The National Treasury Employees Union, which represents IRS employees, is more "bipartisan": Democrats got "only" 94 percent of contributions.

House Republicans on Tuesday moved to punish the IRS in the only way that might hurt. The House Appropriations Committee proposed cutting the agency budget by 24 percent. The proposed law specifically prohibits throwing parties for bureaucrats (usually called "conferences"), paying bonuses and entertaining with bizarre training videos. The House would withhold funding for the IRS implementation of the individual mandate of Obamacare.

Few taxpayers would shed tears at the news that IRS employees won't get $70 million in bonuses for "outstanding performance." Danny Werfel, the acting commissioner of the IRS, proposes to cancel the bonuses and put the $70 million into other IRS programs affected by sequestration. It's a clever move by Mr. Werfel, but Congress must send a clear message of its own that any agency caught abusing the taxpayers will be hit where it hurts.

Rep. Phil Gingrey, Georgia Republican, wants to prohibit federal union employees from collectively bargaining on the taxpayer dime. Since the use of "official time" is not exclusive to the IRS, Mr. Gingrey says his proposal would save $1.2 billion over the next 10 years.

The government has been careless in signing paychecks for employees who are serving themselves, not the public. We're all paying the price for enabling government agencies forever on the scout for new ways to squeeze the public.

The Washington Times

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