Last week a new Political Action Committee (PAC), Progressives United, was born with ideal of saving our representative democracy. It is counter to most PACs, which exist to serve the egos and interests of a select few. Think SarahPac, that will be the only time you have those two words in the same sentence without any irony.
The founder of Progressives United is former Senator from Wisconsin, Russ Feingold. He lost his Senate seat, as well as the power of his signature piece of legislation – the bipartisan McCain-Feingold Act (which strengthened Campaign Finance Laws) as a result of Citizens United vs the Federal Election Commission. One of the primary goals of Progressives United is to help restore the sanity to campaign finance and overturn the Citizens United decision.
Mr. Feingold lost his 2010 Senate race 51.8% to 47% in the wake of unprecedented right leaning, special interest spending. The the Republican Governor’s Association alone spent almost $3.5 million in Wisconsin during the 2010 election period. Pre-Citizens United that amount, let alone the 10 million total spent by special interest groups in Wisconsin during the 2010 cycle, would have been illegal.
And while Citizens United does not allow limitless support for particular candidates, it helps subvert over 100 years of campaign finance laws; corporations and unions may now fund PACs with no limitations. So much for governance of the people, for the people and by the people; it will be an uphill battle to combat the resources of Corporate America.
A record 4.2 Billion dollars was spent nationally on the 2010 midterms by politicians and third-party groups (PACs). The storyline from the Right (read bullshit lies) when Citizens United passed was that the unions would be able to spend as much as corporations – so it would be a push regardless of your political leanings.
This made no sense. First off, there are more corporations than unions. Even if that were not the case the corporations have far more money than unions do. In 2010 the top union political contributor was the Service Employees International Union, with $15.7 million in contributions. The US Chamber of Commerce, a key right-wing contributor, spent $32 million during that same election cycle.
I know that the Right has a tough time with fuzzy math, but that is not even close to being equitable – and that is only from the two top contributors from both sides.
The launch of Progressives United came in week where Mr. Feingold’s home state, Wisconsin, was in turmoil. The state’s union employees were fighting against Governor Scott Walker, who was trying to strip the unions of their right to collectively bargain.
This move by Governor Walker is framed as helping to balance the budget, but there seems to be an ulterior motive. By breaking the unions the Right hopes to be able to further erode the Left’s ability to compete with corporations in a post-Citizens United reality.
Lest I be accused of being an unabashed Union sympathizer, I would like to submit the following: while I firmly believe in workers rights to collectively bargain, I think the idea of unions has been perverted in the past thirty years.
The UAW, in particular, made a series of deals and decisions that contributed to the near downfall of the US Auto Industry. They were not alone in this, management decisions certainly were a main cause as well. But too often the UAW agreed to terms that threatened the solvency of the very jobs they were trying to protect, all in the name of being popular to the rank & file at that moment.
Ron Gettelfinger, who presided over the UAW from 2002 to 2010, was paid a 2.2 million dollar bonus in 2004, on top of his 2.5 million dollar salary. Union leaders make too much, make deals to preserve their own overly-inflated salaries, and are too removed from those they represent. This needs to be remedied for unions to survive.
Lastly, unions need to get their message straight. Too often in the recent past I have heard union members refer to the new $15 UAW jobs that are being filled under the new labor agreement as “Walmart wages”.
Walmart workers would love to get those wages, it would double most of their salaries and change their lives. The UAW should not fall victim to such hyperbole, it undermines their credibility and kills their message and any sympathy they might garner from the non-union workforce.
There, now that I have that all out-of-the-way…
What Governor Walker is attempting to do is scary. He is attempting to undermine policies that protect all workers, not just union employees. It is another step towards a dystopian future where corporations rule our country and workers will be veritable slaves to the machine.
I will support Mr. Feingold and Progressives United. I will support the right of Unions to collectively bargain for better salaries and benefits. We need a PAC that backs the people, rather than the corporate political machine; we need Progressives United.