- The Washington Times - Tuesday, October 15, 2002

"To compel a man to furnish contributions of money for the propagation of opinions which he disbelieves and abhors," Thomas Jefferson argued, "is sinful and tyrannical." Unfortunately for the millions of union workers who vote for Republican candidates, Terry McAuliffe did not become chairman of the Democratic National Committee (DNC) because of his devotion to Jeffersonian ideals.
Having failed so far to bridge the hard-money gap with the Republican Party, Mr. McAuliffe is now poised to do what Democratic Party leaders have been doing for years: With utter contempt for Jeffersonian principle, the chairman of the Democratic Party is going to dip his hands into the pockets of those union members who vote Republican. As this page has noted in the past, extensive exit-poll surveys conducted by Voter News Service since 1980 have repeatedly confirmed that Republican House candidates consistently receive between 35 and 40 percent of the vote from union households.
With the DNC experiencing a nosedive in direct-mail contributions during August and September, Mr. McAuliffe will simply have to rely on Big Labor bosses, who will be only too happy to funnel their members' dues into Democratic Party coffers. If the past is any guide, this gambit will take the usual soft-money route.
Soft money, of course, represents the unregulated, unlimited contributions that corporations, labor unions and wealthy individuals make to political parties to fund issue advertising and party-building activities, such as get-out-the-vote drives. One of the provisions of this year's campaign-finance "reform" bill outlaws soft-money contributions to national political parties effective Nov. 6, the day after the midterm elections. Before then, there is every reason to believe that Big Labor bosses will open their dues-financed union treasuries to Mr. McAuliffe's voracious, insatiable monetary appetite.
Consider a few facts gleaned from the work of the Center for Responsive Politics (CRP) a nonpartisan, nonprofit research center that tracks money in politics (www.opensecrets.org). Data compiled by the CRP reveal that labor unions donating at least $100,000 each in soft money cumulatively contributed about $9 million to Democratic Party political committees in the 1997-98 cycle. (Ignoring how their members vote, unions contribute 99 percent of their soft money to Democratic committees.) In the 1999-2000 cycle, soft-money contributions to Democratic committees totaled $29.3 million from the 26 labor unions whose soft-money donations were at least $100,000. Based on 2001-2002 data that the Federal Election Commission (FEC) has released through Sept. 9, CRP compilations reveal that labor unions contributing at least $100,000 in soft money have cumulatively donated $19.3 million to Democratic Party political committees in the current cycle.
Interestingly, during the previous two election cycles, labor unions have very aggressively ramped up their soft-money contributions in the final weeks and days of the campaign. Why the last-minute charge? For one thing, delaying the contributions as long as possible guarantees that the 35 to 40 percent of union-household voters who cast their ballots for Republican candidates will be kept unaware throughout the entire campaign of the full extent to which their union dues are laundered through their union's treasury into the Democratic Party. Secondly, by the time the information becomes public months following the election, the media's attention is focused elsewhere.
Who, for example, knows that the American Federation of State, County and Municipal Employees (AFSCME) contributed a staggering $5.95 million in soft money to Democratic committees during the 1999-2000 cycle? (AFSCME's Democratic contribution was equal to the Republicans' three largest soft-money donors combined.) One reason AFSCME's largess escaped notice was that $3.5 million was contributed after Sept. 11, 2000 and publicly reported long after the election was over. Of the $1.34 million AFSCME contributed to Democratic committees during the 1997-98 cycle, $850,000 arrived after Sept. 22, 1998. AFSCME is anything but an isolated example.
The Service Employees International Union (SEIU) funneled $1.9 million of its $4.3 million in Democratic soft-money donations during the 1999-2000 cycle after Aug. 27, 2000, including $1.2 million after Oct. 22. In the 1997-98 cycle, SEIU sent the Democrats $375,000, or 60 percent of its total, after Sept. 29, 1998.
In 1999-2000, the United Brotherhood of Carpenters and Joiners of America contributed $2.6 million of their $2.9 million total after Sept. 30, 2000. Democrats cashed four late-arriving checks from the union: $610,000 (Oct. 1); $500,000 (Oct. 11); $500,000 (Oct. 30); and a cool $1,000,000 (Nov. 1).
In the last cycle, the United Food and Commercial Workers International Union sent $1 million (nearly 50 percent of the total) to Democratic committees after Aug. 28.
m In 1999-2000, the International Brotherhood of Electrical Workers contributed $856,000 of its $1.8 million after Oct. 5, 2000, including three checks for $50,000 each and two checks for $75,000 each (Oct. 20) and two checks for $200,000 each (Nov. 1) all made out to the Democratic National Committee.
m Precisely half ($834,000) of the American Federation of Teachers total 1999-2000 soft-money donations ($1,668,000) arrived in Democratic headquarters after Sept. 13, 2000.
The Laborers' International Union of North America sent the Democrats more than half ($445,000) of its total contributions after Oct. 9, 2000.
Within six weeks of the election, the AFL-CIO funneled $580,000 of its $778,000 in 1999-2000 Democratic soft-money contributions, including checks for $350,000 and $200,000 on Sept. 27.
With three weeks to go, the Democratic Party has become increasingly desperate for money. A major reason is that its liberal base has been rejecting direct-mail appeals for cash in a revolt against what it perceives to be the party's failure to challenge President Bush's national-security policies. Therefore, in yet another last-minute orgy of union-treasury looting, look for the Big Labor bosses to come to the Democrats' rescue. They will do so largely by tapping the dues payments of the millions of union members who vote for Republicans. Laughing all the way to the bank, Terry McAuliffe and his Democratic colleagues will once again do their very best to destroy a major Jeffersonian principle.


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