From hot dogs to slick ads: Unions spent $4.4 billion on politics in past 6 years. How much is too much?
A Wall Street Journal analysis of political spending unveiled Tuesday found that organized labor groups dropped a combined $4.4 billion on political activities between 2006 and 2011, about four times more than previously estimated.
The Journal cast a wide net to determine what counted as "political spending," including activities that range from traditional candidate donations to the cost of hot dogs for union demonstrators at political rallies.
To find the additional costs, the newspaper added spending reports filed with the Labor Department to Federal Election Commission spending data. From the report, which is partially behind a paywall at WSJ.com, but is available in full at FoxNews.com:
The usual measure of unions' clout encompasses chiefly what they spend supporting federal candidates through their political-action committees, which are funded with voluntary contributions, and lobbying Washington, which is a cost borne by the unions' own coffers.
These kinds of spending, which unions report to the Federal Election Commission and to Congress, totaled $1.1 billion from 2005 through 2011, according to the nonpartisan Center for Responsive Politics.
The unions' reports to the Labor Department capture an additional $3.3 billion that unions spent over the same period on political activity.
The costs reported to the Labor Department range from polling fees, to money spent persuading union members to vote a certain way, to bratwursts to feed Wisconsin workers protesting at the state capitol last year. Much of this kind of spending comes not from members' contributions to a PAC but directly from unions' dues-funded coffers. There is no requirement that unions report all of this kind of spending to the Federal Election Commission, or FEC.
Union spending goes overwhelmingly to Democratic candidates and liberal causes. According to the Center for Responsive Politics, which tracks political spending, 92 percent of the $58.5 million in direct candidate donations from 1990 to 2012 went toward Democratic candidates.
See Votes by State
News & Politics