Check it out and see who's spending the most on "independent expenditures" this time around. From the Wall Street Journal:
The American Federation of State, County and Municipal Employees is now the biggest outside spender of the 2010 elections, thanks to an 11th-hour effort to boost Democrats that has vaulted the public-sector union ahead of the U.S. Chamber of Commerce, the AFL-CIO and a flock of new Republican groups in campaign spending....
"We're the big dog," said Larry Scanlon, the head of AFSCME's political operations. "But we don't like to brag."...
From that top 5 list above, three unions have kicked in $171.5 million so far to help the cause. This spending boom is thanks to generous donations from you, the American taxpayer, who helped increase public-sector employment dramatically under George W. Bush and Barack Obama.
Mr. Scanlon, who has run elections for AFSCME for nearly 15 years, acknowledged the connection between the number of government jobs and the union's political clout. "The more members coming in, the more dues coming in, the more money we have for politics," Mr. Scanlon said. AFSCME's membership has grown 25% in the past decade.
And the next time your left-wing friends start criticizing the Citizens United decision ("our Dred Scott," sayeth Keith Olbermann!), you can point out that it's made it slightly easier for unions to dump money into politics, since pre-Citizens United, "most labor-sponsored campaign ads had to be funded by volunteer donations. Now, however, AFSCME can pay for ads using annual dues from members, which amount to about $390 per person. AFSCME said it will tap membership dues to pay for $17 million of ads backing Democrats this election."
Which is fine by me, as Citizens United expanded the scope of speech for smaller players and (more directly) pushed back on the government censoring explicitly political speech.
And to keep all this money in perspective, remember this:
Campaign spending by outside groups is increasing rapidly but is still smaller than spending by the Democratic and Republican parties, which combined have already doled out nearly $1 billion in this election cycle, according to the nonpartisan Center for Responsive Politics.
Yesterday, Jacob Sullum noted that Dems are preemptively blaming the midterm losses on a lack of money, which is cool except for that fact that it's untrue. Sullum cites David Brooks, who says that independent expenditures will run about 10 percent of party money-dumps.
The WSJ talked with a White House spokesman about the union clout and the SCOTUS decision, since Obama was one of the most-outspoken critics of Citizens United. The spokesman responded with:
The president has been crystal clear that third-party groups which spend tens of millions of dollars from anonymous sources are a threat to our democracy.
Which seems like a good time to ask Who Is Publius? And Why Should We Trust His Federalist Papers?: