On July 25th the SEIU Local 1000 in California alerted their membership to a state ballot proposition that is working its way through the signature qualification process. In the “campaign news” section of their website, they posted a report entitled “Big business launches another attack on us,” where they state “a new initiative has been launched that would drastically affect labor’s ability to pool dollars and create a strong voice in political decisions affecting our jobs, families and communities.”
If one reads the language of this initiative, which can be found on the California Secretary of State’s website and is called by the proponents the “Stop Special Interest Money Now Act,” it isn’t at all clear why the SEIU would have any greater cause for concern than the other special interests, government contractors and large corporations, who are also targeted by this reform. But the SEIU has every right to oppose whatever political initiatives they deem a threat. That’s how democracy is supposed to work.
What is disturbing is that the claims the SEIU makes in their report are simply not true. Here are some of their questionable assertions:
“Californians Against Special Interests have already banked more than a million dollars in contributions, including a number of six-figure checks from wealthy, out-of-state donors.”
Really? If you review the campaign finance filing that the Californians Against Special Interests made for the period beginning January 1st, 2011, and ending June 30th, 2011, you will see they have collected 73 donations of $100 or more (contributions of less than $100 are not itemized) totaling $1,002,799.75. This can be seen on the “General Information” section of the online report. Further review of this report, under the “Contributions Received” section, does indeed show that five individuals – not corporations, individuals – made donations of $100,000 or more. But not one of them reported living outside of California. In fact, not one reported contribution, not one, came from a source outside California. And only one of these 73 donations, for $10,000, came from what appeared to be a business association. The rest were from individuals. So is the SEIU lying, or just being careless?
Here’s another gem:
“According to the non-partisan Center for Responsive Politics, business interests already dominate political spending by a margin of 15 to 1 over organized labor.”
Again, really? UnionWatch has done an analysis of political spending in the U.S., using the same data. Here’s what we’ve come up with, using source data from the Center for Responsive Politics, on their “Top All-Time Donors” report:
As this data shows, over the past 20 years in the U.S., political spending by business interests does exceed political spending by labor, but by a margin of about two-to-one, not fifteen-to-one. We invite the analysts at the SEIU Local 1000 to explain how they have come up with such a different result from ours. And for what it’s worth, it’s impossible to ignore the fact that while business spending is fairly bi-partisan, weighted only 55% to 45% in favor of Republicans, labor spending is obviously partisan, weighted 94% to 6% in favor of Democrats. Overall, Democrats were the beneficiaries of 62% of all special interest political spending in the U.S. over the past twenty years.
Finally, here’s an assertion the SEIU makes in their report that is, again, completely false:
“The so-called “Paycheck Deception” initiative would take away our right to gather voluntary contributions to the Local 1000 political action fund and pool our money to create a strong voice in political decisions that affect us.”
Again referring to the Secretary of State’s online filing for the “Stop Special Interest Money Now” initiative, here is a summary of what that initiative will do:
1. Ban both corporate and labor union contributions to candidates;
2. Prohibit government contractors from contributing money to government officials who award them contracts;
3. Prohibit corporations and labor unions from collecting political funds from employees and union members using the inherently coercive means of payroll deduction; and
4. Make all employee political contributions by any other means strictly voluntary.
From reading items three and four, it appears that the intent of this initiative is to ensure that contributions to unions for political activity are voluntary, not to take away their right to collect voluntary contributions. The SEIU is accusing this initiative of doing exactly the opposite of what its intent appears to be based on the language itself.
Does the truth matter, however, or are these unions behaving just as badly as they accuse the corporations of behaving? More ominous than the lies – or careless errors, whatever the case may be – within their report, is what they intend to do about it. Read this call to action just posted on the SEIU website “Tell billionaires and big business: Stop trying to silence our voice.” Here’s what they have instructed their members to do:
“Report any signature-gathering by calling 1-877-440-9585. We’ll send out a truth squad to educate voters.”
This is democracy in action, apparently. But will these “truth squads” be telling the truth, or will they be repeating what are clearly either lies or careless errors?