It is not uncommon to hear critics bemoan big money in politics. These discouraged observers commonly follow up their lamentation with a resigned acknowledgement of the alleged stranglehold that the Koch brothers seem to have on our process. While the Koch brothers may be Public Enemy Number One in the halls of MSNBC, their contributions don’t even break the top fifty in the 1989 – 2014 historical analysis that was recently published by OpenSecrets.org.
This list of “Heavy Hitters,” as OpenSecrets calls them, is almost completely dominated by labor unions and companies in our nation’s most regulated industries. Of the top ten, zero are rated as “leans Republican,” seven are rated as “leans Democrat,” “solidly Democrat,” or “strongly Democrat.”
Three highly-regulated companies are listed as “on the fence,” meaning they pay protection money at a rate of 40% – 60% to either side. Not surprisingly, given the government interference in their industries, the fence sitters are Goldman Sachs, AT&T, and the National Association of Realtors.
While it is no surprise that ActBlue, a national donation aggregator for liberal political causes, tops the list by a wide margin, the rest of the top ten reads like a roll call of the organized labor movement. Minus the fence sitters listed in the above paragraph, the following entities round out the top ten in order: American Federation of State, County, and Municipal Employees; National Education Association; International Brotherhood of Electrical Workers; United Auto Workers; Carpenters & Joiners Union; and Service Employees International Union.
Where are the Koch brothers in this analysis? Koch Industries comes in at #59 in the list, and of the 58 organizations ahead of them, only 12 of them register as “leans Republican” or “solidly Republican.”
According to the Center for Investigative Reporting, since 2007, of the top five organizations giving in Colorado politics, unions occupy the top four:
- National Education Association – $9.8 million
- United Food and Commercial Workers – $8.2 million
- American Crossroads – $6 million
- SEIU – $5.7 million
- AFSCME – $3.9 million
We suggest that the next time you hear a liberal complain about the amount of money in politics, simply explain to him or her that labor unions are by far the biggest big money in politics and that if the government did not control so much of the economy, there wouldn’t be so many special interests feeling compelled to feed the beast.