Pennsylvania is the epicenter of Democratic political spending

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Democratic candidate for governor Josh Shapiro.Overflowing campaign coffers underscore the importance of Pennsylvania to national politics – and government influence unions in the elections.

Four weeks out from the midterm elections, Shapiro reported raising $25.4 million in his latest campaign finance report, bringing his total to a record $50.9 million since the start of 2021. This is 47% more than Governor Tom Wolf collected. in four years as an incumbent running for re-election. In contrast, Republican gubernatorial candidate Doug Mastriano has raised just over $5 million since the start of 2021.

Just over half of Shapiro’s total comes from donors outside of Pennsylvania, compared to less than a third of Mastriano’s.

Shapiro’s mass transport includes $5.6 million from the Democratic Governors Association plus a plethora of six- and seven-figure checks from the usual billionaire and celebrity suspects. He notably received $500,000 from Michael Bloomberg and $120,000 from the Soros family. Among Shapiro’s biggest individual donors are California billionaire Jennifer Duda, who gave $2 million; Karla Jurvetson, a Silicon Valley doctor who donated $1 million; and former PayPal executive William Harris Jr., who also donated $1 million. Recognized names such as Steven Spielberg and JJ Abrams have also donated to Shapiro’s campaign.

But among Shapiro’s largest bloc of donors are those who typically make up Shapiro’s bread-and-butter fundraiser. Democrats‘ campaigns: union political action committees (PACs).

So far, government and union PACs have donated $3.6 million to Shapiro, while private sector union PACs have donated $4.7 million. Meanwhile, Mastriano received 0.028% of that amount, or $1,000, from the government union PACS.

Government unions are among the most powerful special interests in Pennsylvania. Their influence in national elections is indisputable. Beyond Shapiro’s campaign, they’ve spent millions supporting the Democratic Party and other progressive causes.

In this campaign cycle alone, top Pennsylvania government and labor PACs raised more than $10 million and spent nearly $7 million. By mid-September, union leaders held more than $6 million in campaign money.

National affiliates of these same unions, including the National Education Association (NEA), the American Federation of Teachers and the American Federation of State, County and Municipal Employees, spent more than $3 million in Pennsylvania during this one cycle.

Government and union spending is decidedly single party oriented. Donations to Democratic Party committees totaled $293,500, compared to $39,000 for Republican committees.

The top ten individual recipients of Pennsylvania government and labor PAC money received, collectively, $4,911,779 during the 2021-2022 cycle. Nine of those ten individuals are Democrats, led by Shapiro.

But government and union influence is not limited to direct campaign contributions. Government unions too spend millions of dollars in membership dues – $96.5 million since 2007 – for election-related activities and lobbying. While union dues cannot go directly to candidates, they can be used — and are used — to support independent expenses for or against candidates or funneled into Super PACS.

For example, the Pennsylvania State Education Association, the state’s largest teachers’ union, and its parent union, the NEA, funnel money into a Super PAC called the Pennsylvania Fund for Change. Fund for Change has run ads attacking Republicans to the tune of nearly $10 million since 2018.

Nationally, government unions funds groups like Color for Change PAC, which advocates defunding the police, and the National Democratic Redistricting Committee, whose sole purpose is to manipulate congressional cards to benefit Democrats.

Government unions maintain their power by forcing taxpayers to pay for union political fundraising, using that fundraising to elect candidates for office, and then negotiating billion-dollar employment contracts with those elected officials. .

As a general rule, it is illegal to use taxpayers’ money for political purposes. But state law gives government and union leaders an advantage afforded no other private organization: Pennsylvania state and local governments, including school districts, can use taxpayer-funded payroll systems. to deduct union dues and PAC contributions from public employee paychecks and send that money. to union leaders.

Armed with these special privileges, Pennsylvania government unions have spent millions on politics – Shapiro being the biggest beneficiary of their largesse – just as the state has become a national target for election dollars. Taxpayers must demand an end to these bogus benefits that fund political campaigns.

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Nathan Benefield is the senior vice president of the Commonwealth Foundation, Pennsylvania’s free market think tank.

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