Wisconsin Most Special Interest
What is Wisconsin most special special interest of them all? Christian Schneider discusses on NRO.
Yet in Wisconsin, it seems somewhat difficult to get anyone to refer to government unions as a “special interest.” Unions refer to themselves as “the middle class,” or the “hard-working people” of the state — as if every member of the middle class worked for a state or local government. To the Left, any collection of individuals that uses their own money to influence a public debate is known as an “interest group.” Conversely, if a similar group uses money boosted through union dues to do the same thing, it is known as a “grassroots organization.”
Last year, these little mom-and-pop unions spent $25 million in Wisconsin in an attempt to recall six Republican state senators. According to the recent finance reports, unions have spent well over $5 million in the Walker recall so far, and the Democratic primary hasn’t even yet been held. In large part, Walker needs to raise prodigious sums of money to keep up with the union spending that is expected during the general-election campaign prior to June 5.
Not only are unions a special interest, they are what we can call an “enhanced” special interest. It is one thing for private interests to spend their own money on campaigns; if the Sierra Club or NRA want to influence elections, they have to find members, solicit them, and keep them on board.
But public-sector unions have to do none of this. In his report Dues and Deep Pockets: Public-Sector Unions’ Money Machine, Daniel DiSalvo of the Manhattan Institute describes how state laws mandate union participation, thus making dues compulsory. Taxpayers pay taxes to pay for public employees, whose wages are then garnished and sent to union leaders, who spend that money to elect officials that will vote for higher taxes to pay higher wages and hire more union members. Wash, rinse, repeat.
These mandatory dues add up. In 2010, according to DiSalvo, the American Federation of State, County and Municipal Employees (AFSCME) reported an income of $211,806,537; the National Education Association (a major teachers’ union) received $397,953,771; and Service Employees International Union received $318,755,793.