Government Unions Funneled Almost $300 Million In Taxpayer-Funded Dues Into Politics Last Cycle, Report Finds

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Three large unions representing government employees, and collecting dues from their taxpayer-funded salaries, poured almost $280 million in membership dues into political activities last election cycle, according to a report produced by the Commonwealth Foundation.

The National Education Association (NEA), American Federation of Teachers (AFT) and American Federation of State, County, and Municipal Employees (AFSCME) spent about $278.3 million worth of membership dues on political activities between 2021 and 2022, according to the Commonwealth Foundation, a Pennsylvania-based free-market think tank. The unions, along with the Service Employees International Union, poured millions in membership due revenue into left-of-center super PACs and nonprofits.

The NEA, AFT and AFSCME represent government employees, and all three of these unions overwhelmingly support Democrats when engaging in political operations, according to Open Secrets. The Commonwealth Foundation also included the SEIU in its report, which represents both public and private employees. SEIU spent $127.9 million in membership dues on political activity in the 2021-2022 election cycle; however, it is unclear how much of this came from government employees. (RELATED: Biden Labor Board May Have Just Opened The Door For Union Activists To Infiltrate Private Companies)

Unions are prohibited by law from contributing membership dues directly to political campaigns, according to the Department of Labor. They can, however, contribute revenue from membership dues to super PACs and 501(c)(4) advocacy nonprofits.

“Public-sector unions’ practice of shoveling dues money into super PACs takes advantage of dues paying members who want to see their dues used for union services, not politics,” David Osborne, a senior fellow at the Commonwealth Foundation, told the Daily Caller News Foundation.

“But it’s equally problematic for taxpayers—they are ultimately on the hook for the unions’ progressive agenda to grow government and increase costs,” he continued.

Unions representing public employees funneled $5.5 million to the Senate Majority PAC, a super PAC “founded to protect and expand the number of Democrats in the United States Senate,” according to the Commonwealth Foundation’s report. Senate Majority PAC spent over $200 million in 2022 working to get Democrats elected, according to Open Secrets.

These unions donated an additional $2.5 million to Building Back Together, a super PAC that “advances the policy agenda of the Biden-Harris Administration and effectively communicates the positive impacts of these critical policies to the American people,” according to its website. Building Back Together was founded by close allies of President Joe Biden.

The Strategic Victory Fund, which received more than $5.6 million from the unions, exists to promote Democratic candidates in state elections, according to its executive director.

The group also involves itself federally, having supported Democrat M.J. Hegar in the 2020 Texas senatorial election against Republican incumbent Sen. John Cornyn, according to the Texas Tribune. Strategic Victory Fund also funded an initiative focused on boosting Democrats in battleground states during the 2020 elections, Politico reported.

In addition to funding groups focused directly on electing and promoting democrats, these unions also redirected revenue generated from membership dues to groups that fund or carry out left-wing advocacy projects.

The Sixteen Thirty Fund, a left-wing dark money group in a network of nonprofits managed by Arabella Advisors, received over $2.7 million in donations from unions representing public employees.

The Sixteen Thirty Fund bankrolls pro-abortion groups, bail funds, LGBTQ organizations and pro-Democrat groups, among other things, according to its tax forms.

The State Engagement Fund, a liberal dark money group funded by George Soros, received $13 million from unions representing public employees.

President Joe Biden speaks to a gathering of union workers on September 5, 2022 in Milwaukee, Wisconsin.

(Photo by Scott Olson/Getty Images)

While the law bars unions from spending membership dues directly on political campaigns, they can use revenue from other sources to support candidates.

More than 99% of the donations made to federal candidates by the NEA, AFSCME, SEIU and AFT went to Democrats, according to the Commonwealth Foundation. Multiple individual Democrats received more money from the unions than all Republicans combined.

Union spending favored Democrats in 45 of 50 states, according to the Commonwealth Foundation.

The NEA, AFSCME, SEIU and AFT did not immediately respond to the DCNF’s requests for comment.

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