Fat Cats, Big Dogs, and Campaign Finance Reform


From the front page of today’s New York Times, headlined “Strained States Turning to Laws to Curb Labor Unions:”

Faced with growing budget deficits and restive taxpayers, elected officials from Maine to Alabama, Ohio to Arizona, are pushing new legislation to limit the power of labor unions, particularly those representing government workers, in collective bargaining and politics.

State officials from both parties are wrestling with ways to curb the salaries and pensions of government employees, which typically make up a significant percentage of state budgets.

From the front page of the October 22, 2010 Wall Street Journal, headlined “Campaign’s Big Spender:”

The American Federation of State, County and Municipal Employees is now the biggest outside spender of the 2010 elections, thanks to an 11th-hour effort to boost Democrats that has vaulted the public-sector union ahead of the U.S. Chamber of Commerce, the AFL-CIO and a flock of new Republican groups in campaign spending.

The 1.6 million-member AFSCME is spending a total of $87.5 million on the elections after tapping into a $16 million emergency account to help fortify the Democrats’ hold on Congress. Last week, AFSCME dug deeper, taking out a $2 million loan to fund its push. The group is spending money on television advertisements, phone calls, campaign mailings and other political efforts, helped by a Supreme Court decision that loosened restrictions on campaign spending.

“We’re the big dog,” said Larry Scanlon, the head of AFSCME’s political operations. “But we don’t like to brag.”

Once again, the limit to which political favors can be repaid with taxpayer money is being reached. This time, big dogs: bloated union contracts have exceeded the ability of the tax base to bear them. Last time, fat cats: the bubble created by favorable regulations for yet another industry—Savings & Loan; Housing; Energy—burst, leaving the public holding the losses.

As the late Harry Browne used to say, if there are packs of wild dogs roaming streets strewn with raw meat, you don’t blame the dogs.

Take the ability to distribute raw meat away from the politicians and see how much concern remains about either fat cats’ or big dogs’ involvement in campaign finance.

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