June 9, 2010

Citizens United — that dreaded Supreme Court case — empowered unions to "flush $10 million of their members' money down the toilet on a pointless exercise."

The quote is from some unnamed White House aide. The money was spent trying to defeat the moderate Democratic incumbent Blanche Lincoln in favor of a more labor-pleasing opponent (Bill Halter):
In recent weeks, the American Federation of State, County, and Municipal Employees (AFSCME) and the AFL-CIO have begun to use the new Citizens United rules to promote their preferred candidates.... In a television ad that started airing late last month, AFSCME whacked Lincoln for moving her family permanently to Washington and taking money from corporate interests....

This ad is an example of "express advocacy"—defined as explicitly telling the public to vote for or against a specific candidate. Before the Citizens United ruling, corporations, unions, and other independent groups could only run express advocacy ads if they were funded by political action committees, which are restricted to $5,000 donations each year from individuals.... Now, those groups can use any funds for these campaign efforts....

Campaign finance experts say the AFSCME ad is a good example of what’s possible in a post-Citizens United world....
We shouldn't pretend ads don't work, but they don't work the way people who spend money on them want. For one thing, we get to see who paid for the ad, and if we're too dumb to put 2 and 2 together, we don't deserve a democracy. Arkansans could see that the unions wanted to get rid of Lincoln.

So it's nice to get a glimpse into what Citizens United will really mean:
Unions deployed "express advocacy" ads—which urge viewers to vote specifically for or against a certain candidate—using their own general funds, something they couldn’t do a year ago. And even then, they couldn’t push their man over the top.....
Of course, if unions aren't going to get much value out of the new power of free speech under Citizens United, the decision should become even more unpopular among those who already oppose it because it gives power to corporations. But I think there's a good chance that people will be skeptical of the express advocacy ads coming from corporations too. I think we're smart enough to think: They're for him? Then I'm against him.

59 comments:

Fred4Pres said...

The only campaign fiance rule should be transparancy. You should be able to easily find out who is paying for ads, who is contributing to a candidate, etc. Beyond that, let freedom prevail.

mccullough said...

Shareholders would consider this a waste of money. What do union members think?

And if the unions have $10 million to waste on a primary election in which even their preferred candidate would likely lose the general election, this doesn't say much about the union's leadership.

I'm still waiting for President Obama to rail against Citizens United because it allows the special interest unions to drown out other voices.

kent said...

"Organized labor just flushed $10 million down the toilet"

... and yet still mere peanuts, compared to the last eighteen months of President Jesus' non-stop looting of the nation's purse on behalf of his party's assorted special interest leeches and limpets.

oldirishpig said...

The most obnoxious facet of the regulatory world is the underlying assumption that I'm too stupid to make decisions without assistance from the better sort of people.

Shanna said...

Interesting because I was just talking to a coworker here in AR about Blanche, and it sounds like some people may have voted for her because they got annoyed that "outside people" were trying to interfere in our local race. Arkansans generally don't like that. Plus, a lot of democrats don't like Bill Halter. Basically, the choices both sucks and that's why the race was almost even.

peter hoh said...

Down the toiled. Full speed ahead!

GMay said...
This comment has been removed by the author.
HDHouse said...

As opposed to 10s of millions of dollars flushed down the toilet(i think that is what the original headline meant to write) instead of going to shareholder dividends or for expanding their business......? hmmm?

AllenS said...

Blogger sucks. I to have to activate my Google account every time I want to comment. Checking Google, I see that I'm signed in with them.

Chase said...

Please - the only reasons that anyone can oppose Citizens United:

1) They truly feel that the average voter is so stupid as to be completely helpless in resisting the influence of better financed ads.

and

2) Every politician can be bought, except for the ones who agree with me.


Losers.

Hoosier Daddy said...

Basically, the choices both sucks and that's why the race was almost even.

Its a sad testament that anymore our choices are a shit sandwich and a shit sandwich with bacon, lettuce and tomato. Then again when you have the media dumpster diving to find dirt on you or 'authors' moving in next door to watch your every move its hardly a wonder anyone other than the dregs want to run for office.

kent said...

our choices are a shit sandwich and a shit sandwich with bacon, lettuce and tomato

Douche and Turd! ;)

Hoosier Daddy said...

As opposed to 10s of millions of dollars flushed down the toilet(i think that is what the original headline meant to write) instead of going to shareholder dividends or for expanding their business......? hmmm?

Probably a newsflash to you but the shareholders can voice his/her vote by dumping their stock whereas the union member's dues are mandatory and he has no say at all and can't just stop paying dues.

MadisonMan said...

They're for him? Then I'm against him.

Groucho Link Opportunity Missed!

pm317 said...

As usual you chose to overlook the significant factor in Lincoln's win. It was Bill Clinton campaigning for her and against moneyed interests in this case the Unions, and it is Clinton country. It is ironic though that a Dem outfit like the unions (and not a big corporation for the Repubs) are the once who wasted money because of Citizens United.

Obama was rolling in money too but still had to be dragged through the finish line esp. in the primary. Kool-aid swigging dumbos upset the democracy in the end.

Fred4Pres said...

Expressing his true feelings about Citizen United?

H/T: Glenn Reynolds

GMay said...

"... and yet still mere peanuts"

Let's not be too charitable now. Peanuts is an overstatement compared to the cosmic numbers this administration has been putting up.

kent said...

Fred4: Totally not the point of your posting, I know... but: why are all the spectators at a weight-lifting competition shaped like Michael Moore...? ;)

Ann Althouse said...

Sorry for the typo, which was cut and pasted from Mother Jones (the third hyperlink in the post).

HDHouse said...

Hoosier Daddy whined...
"Probably a newsflash to you but the shareholders can voice his/her vote by dumping their stock..."

If they know about it that is...there are no provisions for disclosing this in detail...but you knew that didn't you...you lil'rascal.

MadisonMan said...

I understand it's costly to maintain two residences, but if Blanche Lincoln really has uprooted her family and moved to DC, how can she effectively represent Arkansas?

This was a factor in the very deserved defeat of Pennsylvania Senator Santorum, and I would think any one -- especially in an anti-DC year at the polls -- would exploit it fully. Not that I agree with the Union's use of funds to do it, but it's the logical angle to take.

Of course, there is some small amount of irony in an out-of-state Union Bureaucracy criticizing a Senator for moving out of state.

C Black said...

@AnnAlthouse: I won't wade in on "Citizens United", but as to the other thrust of your post: 1. I tend to look at advertising the way you think most people look at advertising (i.e. a detached, cynical perspective which takes in many more factors than those "shovel-readied" by ad execs for my brain - so much so that I will abandon products whose ad agencies piss me off) but, 2. From my experience in telling people how I look at advertising; most people look at me as if I'm an oddball for it. I believe that most people let ads wash over them (I do to sometimes)... and it becomes about the "repetition of impression". That's pretty much it. Most people (I think I think) will not micro-analyze the ins-and-outs of every ad ("Life's to short") and will instead allow their subconscious to let some of these messages in - if they are presented in a pleasing and/or urgent enough way and repeated often enough to either sow doubt or sell capability/utility. (Just my 2c)

Hoosier Daddy said...

I understand it's costly to maintain two residences, .

How about a Congressional dorm?

Franklin said...

"The only campaign fiance rule should be transparancy. You should be able to easily find out who is paying for ads, who is contributing to a candidate, etc. Beyond that, let freedom prevail."

^ This.

Every day, we see how truly brilliant the Founders were. I still think that Unions will benefit the most from the CU ruling - they're more politically inclined and organized than corporations - but whether or not I will like the outcome is not the point, the principle of free speech is.

Stories like this remind me that at the end of the day, we will ALWAYS get the right outcome as long as our laws are bound by the Constitution.

bagoh20 said...

One of the most important deciding factors for me on who to vote for is who endorses them and their ads. I automatically disqualify anyone supported by unions and especially teacher's unions. These groups always support the most corrupt and damaging candidates.

When a company supports a candidate, I have to look deeper because there can be a good or bad reason for it, but no such positive justification ever exists for unions' preferences. Their candidates always lead to bigger more expensive, less effective government. It's the kiss of death. So by all means advertise unions. Tell us loud and clear who not to vote for.

C Black said...

Of course, In my "meta-mindset" it occurred to me that the above thoughts are EXACTLY what Ad Agency execs want me to think - Doh! They win again!

Dust Bunny Queen said...

Shareholders would consider this a waste of money. What do union members think?

Result: an even more compelling reason to not allow "card check" which forces people to vote for unions against their will.

Open shops and right to work should be the rule.

If YOU want to join the union and let them spend YOUR union dues on candidates that you may or may not want.....it should be voluntary.

Unions had their place in their time and were a necessary vehicle to change the workplace rules. We now have laws and government agencies to protect workers from abuse.

The unions are not needed for those purposes anymore and they have morphed into a gang of thugs and extortionists. They extort ever rising benefits and expenses from the companies AND !!!!! from us the taxpayers for public employee unions.

Unions have bankrupted companies (can we all say General Motors) and are bankrupting cities and states.

They have to go.

GMay said...

HDH jerked the trigger: "Hoosier Daddy whined..."

You need to learn the definition of "whine". A more effective opening would have been:

"Hoosier Daddy clued me in..."

Peter V. Bella said...

It is nice the unions can spend their members dues money on wasteful enterprises like politics, instead of paying for health insurance. Something that would directly benefit the members.

MadisonMan said...

Unions have bankrupted companies (can we all say General Motors) and are bankrupting cities and states.

I'm not quite so anti-Union. I would say Union Leadership has to go. Leaders who actually understand the present-day Economy, and don't think it's still 1960, should be in power. Rid us of Dinosaur Union Leaders.

GMay said...

MadMan says: "Leaders who actually understand the present-day Economy, and don't think it's still 1960, should be in power. Rid us of Dinosaur Union Leaders."

I could get on board with that, but I don't believe that the Union culture has produced anyone who could break the mold.

LarsPorsena said...

"It is nice the unions can spend their members dues money on wasteful enterprises like politics, instead of paying for health insurance. ...

or making sure their pension plans are solvent.

gk1 said...

all this manufactured fury at the supreme court over Citizens United reminded me of the democrats new found fury at the antiquated balloting machines around the country when they lost in 2000' and 2004'. Once they started to win elections somehow the "problem" disappeared. So we have a picture perfect example of big money being funneled into a campaign and it had 0 effect. So why do we have to pollute the constitution again?

Bob From Ohio said...

Big corporations are not going to do ads for or against a particular candidate. Too much of a downside. No real benefit either, they can generally co-opt either winner.

Citizens United benefits unions and not for profit corporations (NRA, ACLU, Greenpeace) which exist for political reasons.

I never understod the left wing angst against Citizens United.

edutcher said...

Not sure how much Willie's endorsement saved her, but the South is quite anti-union - a lot of right to work states, as well as pretty insular in places. Now there's a very divided Democrat Party in AR. On the up side for Miss Blanche, the Zero won't be campaigning for her.

Hoosier Daddy said...

I understand it's costly to maintain two residences, .

How about a Congressional dorm?


With hot and cold running pages, no doubt.

kent said...

With hot and cold running pages, no doubt.

"Sleepover party at Eric Massa's place tonight, everybody! Pajama Bottoms Optional! WHEEEEEEE -- !!!"

GMay said...

"How about a Congressional dorm?

...

With hot and cold running pages, no doubt."


With Barney Frank as the dorm mistress.

MadisonMan said...

I don't believe that the Union culture has produced anyone who could break the mold.

The problem as I see it is that Union and Management too frequently see each other as adversaries, when in reality they should be working to strengthen the Company that they all work for.

The assumption is that people will take the job security of a strong company over the short-term gain of a higher salary. Maybe that's a bad assumption.

GMay said...

MadMan says: "The assumption is that people will take the job security of a strong company over the short-term gain of a higher salary. Maybe that's a bad assumption."

Hopefully examples like GM, Chrysler, AIG, etc, will challenge everyone's thinking. Sadly, the bailout culture will probably prevent that from happening.

HDHouse said...

GMay said...
" A more effective opening would have been:

Hoosier Daddy clued me in..."

Perhaps Hoosier Daddy once more tried to mislead...or

HoosierDaddy, defying all and any logic spewed forth....

Hagar said...

I think there is a need to recognize that "the Unions" are not "the Unions" that were. The AFL-CIO & Co., that used to comprise 35% or so of the labor force, are now down to about 5% or less, and the currently dominant unions did not even exist back in the glory days.

Sweeney, Trumka, and Stern are not Meany, Lewis, and Reuther!

William said...

I wonder who BP will be supporting in the next few elections? I'm hoping that they go all out for Obama. "BP: We understand energy, and we support Obama." "Obama here to close the gulf between the haves and the have nots, and we're here for him." "Obama prizes safety, and we prize Obama." So many vote winning slogans come to mind.

miller said...

The White House message is this: whoever spends the most money in ads should win.

Unfortunately, sometimes the Little People (i.e., the voters and even citizens) make mistakes and elect the wrong person.

The White House is working on fixing that flaw. Soon we will have "elections" where the winner is determined solely by the amount of money spent on a candidate. Like American Idol, only not just using text messages for support.

c3 said...

Shareholders would consider this a waste of money. What do union members think?

There's is not to reason "why" there's is but to....

Freeman Hunt said...

Big labor is about as popular in Arkansas as George Bush is in San Francisco. That's one thing our state gets right.

Public sector unions should be illegal. Just want to put that out there.

c3 said...

Now what frustrates me regarding the White House's criticism of the union's expenditures or HP's PR expenditures is this:
THE COST OF PRESIDENTIAL AND VICE PRESIDENTIAL POLITICAL TRAVEL

UNITED STATES HOUSE OF REPRESENTATIVES COMMITTEE ON GOVERNMENT REFORM — MINORITY STAFF
SPECIAL INVESTIGATIONS DIVISION
MARCH 2006

PREPARED FOR REP. HENRY A. WAXMAN

… This report assumes that flight operating costs are $56,518 per hour for Air Force One . These figures are based on the per-hour cost figures cited by GAO for fiscal year 2000, adjusted for inflation.

According to the Congressional Research Service, the President’s domestic travel also involves the use of accompanying cargo planes.

This report assumes one cargo plane accompanies the President on each trip at an operating cost per hour of $6,960. This figure is based on the per-hour cost cited by GAO for fiscal year 2000 for the C-17 cargo plane, adjusted for inflation…

The President flies on a VC-25. General Accounting Office, Presidential Travel: DOD Airlift Cost for White House Foreign Travel, Appendix I, at 10-11 (Aug. 2000) (GAO/NSIAD-00-209).

The VC-25 plane has a speed of 630 miles per hour. Air Force, Fact Sheet on VC-25 – Air Force One (online at http://www.af.mil/factsheets/factsheet.asp?fsID=131)…

According to the Air Force, the C-17 flies at 450 knots, which converts to 518 miles per hour. Air Force, Fact Sheet on C-17 (online at: http://www.af.mil/factsheets/factsheet.aspfsID=86)…

The flight time for presidential travel to campaign-related events was calculated by dividing the total miles traveled by the President by the cruising speed of Air Force I.

Lance said...

The President's probably relieved to have gotten off the schneid. After losing with Deeds, Corzine, Coakley, and Specter, he finally wins one with Lincoln.

Still, I think it says something that his only win came against a challenge from the union-backed hard left.

Synova said...

The idea behind the antagonistic model, as I see it, is that the Union pushes for as much as they can possibly get and if the company gives in it means that the demands were not too great after all.

Which would work just fine, really, up until the company is artificially propped up by government. The failure point should be as soon as possible rather than buffered. (The same with states like California... yes, there are obligations but at the point the whole thing loses viability then all those concessions and pay raises and retirement plans *ought* to come crashing down.)

I think it's called killing the golden goose?

MayBee said...

Public sector unions should be illegal. Just want to put that out there.

Agreed. Taxpayers shouldn't be paying wages so that a portion of our money goes to a private entity which has the goal of getting more money from the taxpayers in the name of protecting government workers from the government we're being forced to support with tax money.

Also, are we sure the unions wasted their members' money on this race? It's quite possible the SEIU wasted Bank of America's money on this race.

lyssalovelyredhead said...

MadMan said: "The problem as I see it is that Union and Management too frequently see each other as adversaries, when in reality they should be working to strengthen the Company that they all work for."

I agree. One of the truly "is this person serious?" moments of my life was when speaking to the father of a co-worker, who worked for one of the big three. My co-worker & I were joking about our boss, a nice enough but socially awkward man who had the irritating habit of kind of floating around our cubicals until noticed, rather than just initiating conversation.

Auto-worker dad immediately jumped in and explained how, if we only had a union in our office, they would stop management from bothering us like that, and that was why office employees should have unions. We could not convince him, no matter what, that this was just an awkward guy trying to relate to his employees, not trying to bother us, and that we considered ourselves part of his team regardless of his quirks.

The us-verses-them mentality told me all that I needed to know about why modern unions are the antithesis of efficient business.

- Lyssa

lyssalovelyredhead said...

Sorry for the double post.

GMay said...

"Still, I think it says something that his only win came against a challenge from the union-backed hard left."

MFM spin: "See? We told you he was a moderate!"

Mick said...

So much lying about this case. It was not about Corporations giving money to campaigns of politicians. It was about the ability of Corporations, or anyone to use public airwaves for political ads.
Critics are selective in WHO they want to have free speech rights. Newspapers are corporations aren't they? Why do they get to support a candidate, yet other corporations can't? Why? because most Newspapers are Liberal Rags that support Liberal candiodates, other corporations, not so much.

Blue@9 said...

Please - the only reasons that anyone can oppose Citizens United:

1) They truly feel that the average voter is so stupid as to be completely helpless in resisting the influence of better financed ads.


This is what irks me. If voters are so malleable that they can be swayed to vote against their natural interests or inclinations by expensive ads, why not just call for ending democracy? Apparently the people are too stupid to vote.

Mick said...

Blue@9 said,
"This is what irks me. If voters are so malleable that they can be swayed to vote against their natural interests or inclinations by expensive ads, why not just call for ending democracy? Apparently the people are too stupid to vote."


Exactly. We the people will determine what ads we choose to pay heed to. To restrict speech because of it's effect on the electorate is babysitting in the worst Orwellian way.

Lance said...

MFM spin: "See? We told you he was a moderate!"

Heh, too true.

But seriously, will Obama ever realize the nation doesn't want his brand of social democrat-ism? Or is it a case of "None so blind as will not see?"

Dust Bunny Queen said...

But seriously, will Obama ever realize the nation doesn't want his brand of social democrat-ism?

He doesn't care what we want.

Methadras said...

Way to go unions, you fucked your members again. Your time is outdated and unneeded. Please cease to be and evaporate into history where you only belong.

dave1310 said...

Can't flush it unless it is given to them. Unions, in some respects, have the same problems as the government; professional, life-entitled officials who do what is best for them and not for the members. On the other hand, like our politicians, those leaders keep being re-elected, so, yeah, maybe the rank-and-file think that money was well spent. Not! (But I don't think the members are angry enough yet to do anything about it.)