By M.D. Kittle -
Big Labor pledges it will go all in, again, in its drive to knock out its top political adversaries in 2014.
And one of the biggest targets is Wisconsin Republican Gov. Scott Walker, hero to conservatives, bane of the left for his public-sector collective bargaining reforms.
Michael Podhorzer, political director of the AFL-CIO, in a New York Times piece last week said the nation’s labor unions look to spend at least $300 million going after Republicans in this fall’s elections.
Much of that spending is expected to be dropped on four industrial battlegrounds: Michigan, Ohio, Pennsylvania and Wisconsin, traditional union strongholds. Big Labor also wants Florida.
“Their hope is to not only oust the Republican governors of those states, but also to flip several of the legislative chambers. In all five states the Republicans control both houses,” the Times piece notes.
Organized labor spent about $300 million in 2010 targeting elections. This time around, the unions intend to hammer a theme they see as the winner this election year: Boosting the minimum wage.
“Raising wages for all workers is the issue of our time and, hopefully, will be the issue of this election,” AFL-CIO President Richard Trumka said during the annual meeting last week in Houston.
As the Times piece points out, Big Labor is looking for payback, ramping up to hit governors like Walker, whose Act 10 handed public employee unions one of their biggest losses, and Michigan Republican Gov. Rick Snyder for delivering a right-to-work law that ends forced union dues in the home of the United Auto Workers.
“It’s about survival,” Lee Saunders, president of the American Federation of State, County and Municipal Employees and chairman of the AFL-CIO’s political committee, told the newspaper. “What’s happened didn’t just hurt public-sector unions, it hurt the entire labor movement,” Saunders said of Walker’s law that rolled back the power of public-sector unions in Wisconsin.
Conservatives are biting back.
“(Last week), the AFL-CIO announced that they are planning to spend at least $300 million this year to unseat five GOP governors. $300 MILLION! And guess who is on that list?” Walker campaign manager Stephan Thompson wrote in a fundraising appeal.
“While Governor Walker has been focused on moving Wisconsin forward and turning a $3.6 billion deficit into nearly a $1 billion surplus, the big-government unions have been focused on taking the state back to the days where they reigned supreme — the days where taxes and unemployment were skyrocketing,” adds the campaign email, asking would-be donors to “contribute $10, $20, or $30 to help Governor Walker combat these liberal special interests who are only just beginning their nasty campaign to take back Wisconsin.”
Big Labor and other liberal outside special interest groups dumped nearly $36 million into Wisconsin’s spate of recall campaigns in 2012, according to an analysis by the liberal-leaning Wisconsin Democracy Campaign. The figure includes the recall election Walker won, handily beating Milwaukee Mayor Tom Barrett, a Democrat.
But Walker and his supporters proved up to the challenge, with conservative groups spending $22.6 million on the governor’s recall race, compared to $14 million by groups supporting the Democrat candidates, according to WDC.
Walker and Republican groups and committees outspent all of the Democratic candidates, groups and committees $58.7 million to $21.9 million in the nearly $81 million governor’s race, the review concludes.
Walker’s re-election campaign raised $5.1 million during the last six months of 2013, moving into the year with $4.6 million cash on hand.
His Democrat challenger, Mary Burke, a former Trek Bicycle executive and a member of the Madison Metropolitan School Board, raised $1.4 million between October, when she jumped into the race, and the end of the year. Burke, a millionaire who served as state Commerce secretary under former Democrat Gov. Jim Doyle, unloaded another $400,000 of her own money into the campaign during the period.
Those fundraising numbers are just the tip of the iceberg in the big money chase to come, campaign watchers say.
The Republican Governors Association last week launched a six-figure ad buy going after Burke, reminding voters that she worked for a governor who presided over one of Wisconsin’s most significant periods of job loss.
“Waste, mismanagement – Mary Burke would take Wisconsin backwards,” concludes the first ad, which rolled out on Wednesday.
Burke’s campaign countered with a statement, in part saying, “Scott Walker’s Governors Association is clearly panicked at the realization they’re running against a proven job creator.”
John McAdams, a political science professor at Marquette University in Milwaukee, said Walker in many ways is the ideal conservative for the right, particularly his image as an economic conservative. For the left, there is a “symbolic” importance in beating the Republican governor.
Organized labor “has a very long-term interest as the implementation of Walker’s Act 10 is seen as a political failure for them, and their recall effort failed,” McAdams said.
“If Walker is not re-elected they can say they won the war, even if they lost about four big battles along the way,” he said.
But it’s still early, McAdams said. While Big Labor may be putting a big target on Walker’s back, should Burke lose ground in the polls and become a less attractive political investment, the labor movement will move on and spend its money elsewhere, McAdams said.
“Let’s just say the political types, the people out soliciting campaign contributions are watching the development of campaigns almost in minute detail,” the pundit said.
In the most recent Marquette Law School Poll, Walker expanded his lead to 6 percentage points. The bigger issue for Burke? A vast majority of registered voters who responded to the poll had no idea who she was.
Nationally, groups like American Bridge, tied to Hillary Clinton and backed by big-money liberal donor George Soros, are spending a lot of cash and manpower trying to pin the politically charged John Doe investigations on Walker. The first such secret probe ended in March 2013, after nearly three years, without any charges of wrongdoing against the governor.
A second investigation was launched by the same Democrat-led Milwaukee County District Attorney’s office in August 2012. The presiding judge has quashed several subpoenas, ruling prosecutors did not show compelling evidence that conservative groups illegally coordinated with campaigns during the 2012 recall elections.
Big Labor has pledged payback for the big policy losses they’ve suffered, conservative-led reforms that are costing unions members, money and power. Labor union membership remained flat in 2013, at 11.3 percent of the working population, according to the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics. But the numbers have plummeted during the past 30 years, from 17.7 million union workers in 1983, or 20.1 percent, to 14.5 million last year.
Big Labor’s hope lies in big victories at the polls — and that drive won’t come cheap.
“It’s revenge time for AFL-CIO officials, who have publicly declared war on (Michigan Gov.) Rick Snyder and (five) other Republican governors in the 2014 elections,” declared an August 2013 post by the National Institute for Labor Relations Research, an organization committed to exposing the “inequities of compulsory unionism,” according to its website.
“Snyder, who signed a Right to Work bill in 2012, is sure to be the most important target for AFL-CIO union officials who have million(s) of forced-dues dollars to spend on the 2014 elections,” ILRR stated.