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Donor profile: Service Employees International Union

Quick stats on the biggest financial backers of Election 2012

By

 Updated:

Ranking: 21

Total contributions to super PACs: $4.4 million*

  • $1 million to Priorities USA Action (pro-Barack Obama)
  • $850,000 to Rethink PAC (pro-Elizabeth Warren)
  • $668,500 to House Majority PAC (pro-Democratic)
  • $550,000 to Service Employees International Union PEA - Federal (pro-Democratic)
  • $381,500 to Working for Us PAC (pro-Democratic)
  • $350,000 to Majority PAC (pro-Democratic)
  • $200,000 to American Bridge 21st Century (pro-Democratic)
  • $143,000 to America Votes Action Fund (pro-Democratic)
  • $100,000 to Patriot Majority PAC (pro-Democratic)
  • $92,370 to Workers’ Voice (pro-Democratic), formerly known as AFL-CIO Workers’ Voices PAC
  • $25,000 to Saving Florida's Future (pro-Bill Nelson)
  • $20,000 to Vote Your Values PAC (pro-Barack Obama)
  • $15,000 to South Floridians for Effective Leadership (pro-Kristin Jacobs)
  • $10,000 to Protecting America's Retirees (union-aligned)
  • $8,650 to Connecticut's Future PAC, Inc. (pro-Chris Murphy)

Notable federal hard and soft money and 527 contributions:

  • More than $1.3 million in donations to federal candidates during the 2012 election cycle, almost exclusively Democrats, according to the Center for Responsive Politics

Notable state-level contributions, 2012:

  • $30,000 to Jay Nixon, Democratic candidate for governor of Missouri
  • $17,000 to Andrew Cuomo, Democratic governor of New York
  • $15,000 to Kathleen Falk, Democratic primary challenger for governor of Wisconsin
Total spent on lobbying (2007-2012):
 
$11.6 million, according to the Center for Responsive Politics.
 

Biography:

Mary Kay Henry, the Service Employees International Union's first woman president, put SEIU squarely in the 2012 campaign early on. In November 2011, she released her union's endorsement of President Barack Obama. 
 
Andy Stern, SEIU's president from 1996 to 2010, was one of the most frequent visitors to the White House early in Obama's term, when the union touted is access to the new commander-in-chief. SEIU's website lauds Stern's role in pushing for healthcare reform.
 

SEIU claims a growing membership of 2.1 million workers primarily in the service sector, including healthcare, food service, security and janitorial jobs. In 2005, Andy Stern broke away from the AFL-CIO labor federation and formed a new coalition with the Teamsters and other unions. The new federation, called Change to Win, formed on a promise to regenerate the labor movement by channeling resources into new member organizing, but it has seen only marginal success. Three unions returned to the AFL-CIO over Stern's controversial multinational organizing strategy.

Henry, the SEIU's new president, has continued Stern's legacy of major political donations to Democratic candidates.

The union was one of candidate Obama's central supporers in 2008. He reciprocated on the campaign trail, but failed to deliver on two of SEIU's major legislative priorities in his first term:. the Employee Free Choice Act, which would have facilitated new organizing, and immigration reform. The SEIU says it represents more immigrants than any other union.

The union's "Accountability" campaign pledged to hold Obama's feet to the fire in 2008, but in 2012, the union again mobilized both a ground and air game for Obama.

The SEIU's own super PAC, the "Service Employees International Union PEA - Federal," donated more than $3.2 million to a Democratic-aligned super PAC called Florida Freedom PAC, which supported Obama, Sen. Bill Nelson and three House candidates.

The SEIU's super PAC also transferred funds to the Sierra Club's super PAC and the union-aligned Defend Our Homes super PAC, which targeted a handful of Republicans with mailings and telephone calls.

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.