Citizens United has a few more tricks up its sleeve. While the Supreme Court decision is primarily known for unleashing a torrent of independent expenditures, it also removed barriers to union participation in politics. As described in the New York Times (“A Campaign Finance Ruling Turned to Labor’s Advantage” - 9/25/11), organized labor is now able to engage non-union voters through direct solicitation. Of course, they too are utilizing the ubiquitous SuperPAC to make their “speech,” also known as money, heard loud and clear. Why would an interest group allocate so many resources to political maneuvering? Well, listen to Richard Trumka, the president of the AFL-CIO.
Mr. Trumka said unions were tired of Democratic politicians taking them for granted after labor shoveled millions of dollars into Democratic campaigns. In distancing themselves, at least a bit, from the Democrats, unions are becoming part of a trend in which newly empowered outside groups build what are essentially party structures of their own — in this case, to somewhat offset the money flowing into conservative groups that are doing the same thing.
You can see the assumed quid pro quo here. When the Democrats failed to act on union priorities, labor funds were diverted elsewhere. Where there is money in politics, there is a real incentive to pander to its sources. In this age of endless ideological dueling, with each side refusing to concede territory, the need for leadership is urgent. Fair elections will not destroy the specter brought about by Citizens United, but it can give our voter-minded candidates a fighting chance.