April 13, 2016
Citizens United Decision Did Not Address Public Sector Unions Campaign Finance
In 2010 the Supreme Court ruled in the Citizens United case that corporate campaign financing is a protected form of free speech, and that corporations and unions could actively advocate for or against specific candidates. However, that ruling did not address the issue of whether public sector unions can advocate for or against specific candidates. In fact, word searches of the ruling and Dissent reveal that that the words “public sector union,” SEIU, AFSCME, American Federal of Teachers and National Education Association do not exist in the ruling or dissent.
Public sector unions are of a far great concern with regard to quid pro quo issues than are corporations. This is because public sector unions can force taxpayers to finance their influence on political campaigns, private corporations can’t.
That public sector unions can use the power of government to tax and then utilize that tax revenue in order to advocate for candidates who support their public union, is a very serious threat to democracy. That this issue was not discussed by the Citizens United decision or the dissent written by Justice Stevens is itself very troubling.
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In writing his dissent, however, Justice Stevens made a great effort to ignore the financial resources amassed in 2010 by the four big public sector unions, and the issue influence public school teachers have in districts all across the US.
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That corporations have unique access to legislators is difficult to fathom since in Illinois and other states run by liberal Democrats the biggest campaign contributors are not big corporations but teacher unions. Nationally, FEC financing reports show that four of the six biggest campaign contributors are public sector unions. The only national corporate contributor was number eight, the Las Vegas Sands.
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the fact that in 31 states teacher unions have had provisions put into their state constitutions mandating that public sector contracts are enforceable contracts, the benefits of which cannot be diminished or impaired. And in Illinois teachers get a three percent raise every year, regardless of the actual cost of living increase. In Illinois there are ten cities where the entire property tax amount paid by innocent homeowners goes solely into supporting the pensions of public sector unions.
Some of these educators have retirement plans as big as those of the 100 top corporate CEOs. These huge pensions are a direct result of the success public sector unions have had in getting their special interests voted into law.
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But what Roberts, Scalia, Thomas, and Stevens ignored was the role of the huge donations made by public sector unions in political campaigns at all levels. And teacher unions particularly, since they have the opportunity to teach children in every public school district throughout the nation what their Party believes and the policies they advocate are particularly concerning.
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Private PACS spend hundreds of millions during political campaign years, this amount must be reported. The dollar value of having every public sector teacher preaching the policies of their single political party is never measured. And the two largest teacher unions, the American Federation of Teachers and National Education Association give 99% of the campaign contributions to only one Party: the Democrat Party. It’s difficult to defend the notion that this is not government-mandated speech.
The Center for Responsive Politics has noted that of the six biggest campaign contributors, four are public sector unions. And the largest, ActBlue, is a pro-Democrat advocacy group. It is difficult to understand how Justice Stevens spoke of the trillions of dollars of annual revenues earned by big corporations but neglected to mention the ability of public sector unions to give many millions every year nationwide. This proves that public sector union contributions have escaped accountability even at the SCOTUS level.
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SCOTUS cannot continue to pretend that public sector union influence on elections is not nationwide and funded through government’s power to tax. Since it is impossible to control speech in every classroom the only solution is to ban public sector unions. Public sector unions serve no useful purpose other than to violate the First Amendment; in order to enable their union to maintain the power of their political party to write laws to fund their pensions.
March 30, 2016
Citizens United Didn’t Address Public Sector Money in Politics
By Michael Bargo, Jr.