- The Washington Times - Wednesday, January 9, 2008

A loss by Sen. Hillary Rodham Clinton in the Democratic presidential primaries would prove an expensive setback for the political arm of one of the nation’s largest labor unions and a leading pro-choice group, which have spent heavily to help elect their favored candidate and the longtime front-runner.

Federal Election Commission (FEC) filings show the political action committee for the American Federation of State, County and Municipal Employees (AFSCME) has spent more than $1.8 million for Mrs. Clinton since September. And the pro-choice group Emily’s List has donated more than $500,000 in independent expenditures.

Overall, the union had said it planned to spend as much as $60 million during the presidential campaign and would mobilize 40,000 volunteers to help get Mrs. Clinton elected.

Campaign filings show the group also has spent roughly $150,000 criticizing Sen. Barack Obama of Illinois, expenditures that some within AFSCME call a bad strategy.

Seven union vice presidents recently sent a letter to AFSCME’s president demanding a halt to the “negative campaign,” asking “why would we want to develop a hostile relationship with the man who could be that next president?”

One of the vice presidents, Henry Bayer, also is director of AFSCME’s Illinois council, which balked at the union’s decision to endorse Mrs. Clinton and instead backed Mr. Obama.

“Negative attacks on any candidate are detrimental,” Anders Lindall, a spokesman for the AFSCME Council 31 in Illinois, said yesterday. He also said the letter from Mr. Bayer and others “speaks for itself.”

The decision by unions and other organizations to participate in the primaries can pay dividends if their candidate ultimately wins and rewards the loyalty once elected. But for groups that make the wrong pick, there’s also the potential for being on the outside looking in during a new administration.

Jen Psaki, a spokeswoman for the Obama campaign, discounted concerns about a damaging of relations between the union and Mr. Obama.

“Obama has a very good relationship with the working men and women of AFSCME in Illinois and all over the country, and he’s confident that will continue when he is president of the United States,” she said.

AFSCME isn’t the only big-spending supporter for Mrs. Clinton. The political action committee for Emily’s List, which seeks to elect female candidates based on their stance on abortion, has spent more than $500,000 in efforts to elect Mrs. Clinton since September, according to FEC records.

For Emily’s List, Mrs. Clinton’s candidacy is the first time the group has spent heavily on behalf of a presidential contender. Typically, the group plays an active role in congressional and gubernatorial races.

Maren Hesla, who directs Emily’s List independent political efforts, said she doesn’t regret backing Mrs. Clinton and noted the group did not finance any negative campaigning against any of her rivals.

Ms. Hesla said the group will re-evaluate its strategy after the New Hampshire primary results.

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