Political Money Monitor #10: February 27, 1998

Contents* Talking the Talk, But Not Walking the Walk
* Upping the Ante for Political Choice in Nevada
* Union Dues Buys Ohio Democrats New Headquarters
* AFL-CIO to Earmark $20 Million to Fight Paycheck Protection
* Campaign Finance Reform Information Center

Talking the Talk, But Not Walking the Walk; Not Even Senator Feingold Wants to Abide By Proposed Campaign Regulation That Bears His NameSenator Russ Feingold of Wisconsin is one of the chief sponsors of legislation to impose stricter regulations on campaign finance law that was debated in the Senate this week. Although his bill would create new limits on contributions and spending, the senator was not so keen on restricting his current campaign practices when similar voluntary limits were proposed to him.

Up for reelection this year, the Democratic Feingold is being challenged by Republican Congressman Mark Neumann. Congressman Neumann suggested they abide by rules that reflected the spirit of the McCain-Feingold legislation: spending no more than a dollar per eligible Wisconsin voter (approximately $3.8 million), limiting political action committee (PAC) donations to 10% of total money raised (original McCain-Feingold language banned PAC money), raising 75% of individual contributions from state residents and spending no more than $25,000 of their personal funds. Senator Feingold, who has already raised $2.4 million, offered a watered-down proposal that included a $5 million spending cap and a 20% PAC limit. He also pledged not to use taxpayer-funded “franked” constituent mail to boost his image or raise “soft money” for independent expenditures against Congressman Neumann – two things already illegal under current law.

The eventual agreement came to a $4.5 million spending cap, 75% in-state individual contribution requirement, a 10% PAC limit and a personal spending limit of not more than $2,000.

Upping the Ante for Political Choice in Nevada; Voters to Consider Paycheck Protection Amendment to State ConstitutionNevada voters will go to the polls this November to decide whether or not employers and labor unions can involuntarily use employee payroll deductions for politics.

Specifically, the “Payroll Protection Initiative” (PPI) will amend the Nevada Constitution to make it illegal for employers and unions to “compel or require a worker to make a political contribution as a condition of employment, a condition of contract or as a condition of membership in a labor organization.” Workers choosing to participate in a payroll deduction system would be required to give annual written approval.

Because the PPI is a constitutional amendment, Nevada law requires it to be approved twice. Therefore, a victory in November would require a similar campaign in 2000. Passage a second time would put it into effect immediately.

Recent polls by Opinions of Nevada and the Nevada Republican Party both found 74% approval for the PPI. The GOP poll found 70% support in union households. PPI organizers say there “should be no problem at all” collecting the signatures of 46,764 Nevada voters by June 16 to qualify for the ballot.

The Nevada State AFL-CIO has already created a political action committee to oppose the PPI, and says it plans to at least match pro-PPI campaign spending. It is also collecting signatures to run competing ballot initiatives in an attempt to blunt the PPI’s popularity.

Campaign Finance Factoids

Union Dues Buys Ohio Democrats New Headquarters

Look for the union label on the cornerstone of the Ohio Democratic Party’s new state headquarters in Columbus. The $830,000 building was paid for, in part, with money donated by labor unions – money taken from member wages as union dues. According to an Ohio Democratic Party press release, “Ohio election law permits the party to spend corporate and union dues money for the purchase of a building. This money cannot be used to fund campaign efforts.”

AFL-CIO to Earmark $20 Million to Fight Paycheck ProtectionWhen the AFL-CIO Executive Committee meets in Las Vegas, Nevada on March 18, they are expected to approve a $20 million political budget that will be spent primarily on attempts to defeat paycheck protection legislation and ballot initiatives at the state and federal level. AFL-CIO officials have already said they plan to spend $8-10 million in the state of California alone to defeat Proposition 226, which would require labor unions to obtain annual permission from every member before using his or her’s dues money for political activity. Union leaders are also talking about making more political donations to Republican candidates at the federal level in an effort to stop federal paycheck protection legislation. In a switch from giving almost exclusively to Democratic candidates in past elections, Roll Call quoted an unnamed top labor official who said, “We are willing to work with anyone who works with us.”

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