Donor profile: AFL-CIO

Quick stats on the biggest financial backers of Election 2012

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AFL-CIO headquarters in Washington, D.C.

Wikimedia Commons

Ranking: 13

Total contributions to super PACs: $7.4 million*

  • $7.2 million to Workers’ Voice (pro-Democratic), formerly known as AFL-CIO Workers’ Voices PAC
  • $100,000 to Patriot Majority PAC (pro-Democratic)
  • $62,500 to House Majority PAC (pro-Democratic)
  • $15,000 to Stronger Together (pro-Democratic)
  • $10,000 to Connecticut's Future PAC (pro-Chris Murphy)
  • $5,000 to Protecting America's Retirees (union-aligned)
  • $3,700 to UTE PAC (pro-Democratic)
  • $2,500 to NJ Workers' Voices (pro-Democratic)
  • $750 to We Vote - Nosotros Votamos - PPAMM Committee (pro-Democratic)

Notable federal hard money and 527 contributions:

  • More than $1.2 million in PAC donations to Democratic and Republican candidates during the 2007-2008 election cycle, according to the Center for Responsive Politics

Total spent on federal lobbying (2007-2012): $26 million

Lobbying issues: Higher education, defense, finance, health care, collective bargaining rights

Background:

The umbrella organization of 56 unions represents 12 million workers, including 10 large public employee unions. Its super PAC, Workers’ Voices, raised nearly $21 million, with the bulk of that money coming from the AFL-CIO (about $7.2 million). According to the Center for Responsive Politics, six other unions also made seven-figure donations to the AFL-CIO's super PAC, including the American Federation of State, County and Municipal Employees ($3.9 million) and the American Federation of Teachers ($1.1 million).

Richard Trumka, AFL-CIO president since 2009, has been critical of President Barack Obama in the past, but made a groundbreaking speech on race ahead of the 2008 election, urging white union voters to ignore racist attacks on Obama and vote for the best, most pro-union candidate.

The union spent heavily ahead of the 2010 midterm elections, but Trumka also voiced disappointment with the White House’s lack of movement on labor’s key issues as Obama’s first term progressed. Trumka threatened to divert the federation’s funds away from the Democratic establishment, suggesting that building a year-round political “structure for working people” would be a better use of union funds.

That structure is called “Working America,” a nationwide network of 3 million union and non-union activists that focuses on online, local and legislative advocacy efforts, centered around jobs.

Trumka’s threat to abandon the Democratic Party was an empty one. He endorsed Obama in March 2012, saying that, despite differences with the president, the union has “never doubted Obama’s commitment to working families.”

AFL-CIO’s super PAC reported nearly $6 million in independent expenditures, including more than $2.5 million for the presidential race.

In November, it gave $50,000 to We Are Ohio, which led a successful effort to defeat the state law that would have limited collective bargaining for public sector unions. Workers’ Voice also contributed $200,000 to the Democratic super PAC American Bridge 21st Century, which specialized in opposition and produced several videos and ads critical of Republican presidential candidate Mitt Romney.

One of the AFL-CIO’s largest member unions, AFSCME, spent sizeable amounts in Florida and Ohio on radio, TV and internet ads aimed at blue-collar workers that criticized Romney for opposing the auto bailout. Another ad entitled “Greed” linked Romney’s former employer, Bain Capital, to Medicare fraud.

Last updated: Jan. 30, 2013

*2011-2012 election cycle. Source: Center for Responsive Politics and Center for Public Integrity analysis of Federal Election Commission records. Totals include contributions from individuals, family members and corporations that are controlled by the individual super donor.