By Jason Hart | Watchdog.org
American Federation of State, County and Municipal Employees funneled more than $65 million to politicians, lobbyists and activist groups last year.
Would you believe taxpayer money taken from government workers’ paychecks was sent to MSNBC host Al Sharpton? It was.
AFSCME donated $126,500 to Sharpton’s National Action Network, one of many examples of AFSCME spending member dues on polarizing “progressive” causes.
In the government union’s 2014 report the U.S. Department of Labor, AFSCME disclosed $64,585,115 in “Political Activities and Lobbying” spending. The union also reported more than $1 million in donations to political nonprofits — including Sharpton’s — as “Contributions, Gifts and Grants.”
Not all members share AFSCME’s priorities, as demonstrated since 2011 in Wisconsin, where Republican Gov. Scott Walker’s Act 10 empowered public employees to leave the union.
Act 10 “gave government workers a choice,” Nick Novak, spokesman for Wisconsin’s free-market MacIver Institute, said in an email to Watchdog.
“Most public employees now have the ability to leave their union if they don’t feel they are getting a value from it. AFSCME has lost 25,000 members in Wisconsin alone — nearly 70 percent of its membership,” Novak said.
“Government unions have become more and more political, and they have been able to do it on the backs of the taxpayers,” he added.
“If a public employee wants to leave a union because they disagree with its political activities, they now have the ability to do so in Wisconsin.”
Before Act 10, Wisconsin was among the states where government workers opting out of AFSCME membership could be forced to pay AFSCME “agency fees” as a condition of employment.
Unions aren’t permitted to use agency fees on politics, but the ability to collect forced fees lets unions spend more member dues on politics. AFSCME did not respond to questions from Watchdog about how the union’s spending decisions are made and communicated to members.
Because AFSCME takes its revenue from government workers, the union’s funding of Democrat politicians and political activist groups amounts to indirect support from taxpayers.
Taxpayer spending fuels AFSCME lobbying for more taxpayer spending. Dues taken from 1,337,126 members and mandatory agency fees taken from 125,255 nonmembers make the government union a powerful advocate of bigger government.
Sharpton and AFSCME officials are far from the only beneficiaries of this system.
AFSCME made a dozen political expenditures of $1 million or more last year, plus 16 political expenditures of $500,000-$999,000 and 27 of $250,000-$499,000.
The union’s direct campaign contributions and super PAC expenditures helped Democrats in Wisconsin, Illinois, Florida and elsewhere. AFSCME’s largest donation of 2014 was a $4,275,000 contribution to the Democratic Governors Association.
The vast campaign spending AFSCME reported to both the Department of Labor and the Federal Election Commission was overshadowed by tens of millions of dollars in contributions to leftist advocacy groups.
Americans United for Change, whose mission is “to amplify the progressive message,” received $1 million from AFSCME last year according to AFSCME’s Department of Labor filing.
AFSCME gave America Votes, “the central coordination hub of the progressive community,” $629,250 plus an additional $500,000 for the nonprofit’s “state engagement initiative.”
AFSCME contributed $1.7 million to Working America, union coalition AFL-CIO’s community organizing group. AFSCME gave environmentalist group League of Conservation Voters $500,000, and paid abortion advocacy group Planned Parenthood Action Fund $400,000.
Illegal immigrant advocacy group National Council of La Raza received $255,000 from AFSCME. Progressive activist networks ProgressNow and USAction received $250,000 and $130,000, respectively.
AFSCME paid $100,000 each to Citizens for Tax Justice, Jobs With Justice, Center for American Progress and CAP’s activist arm. The union also made contributions of $50,000 each to union think tank Economic Policy Institute and activist group Sixteen Thirty Fund.