RIFT OVER POLITICAL SPENDING DIVIDES HUGE
–Sam Hananel – 6/9/2012 USA
WASHINGTON (AP) - A heated battle is taking place inside a giant
public employees' union
following its crushing failure this week to oust Wisconsin Gov. Scott Walker -
organized labor's biggest political loss in
At stake is the direction of the 1.3-million-member American Federation of State, County and Municipal Employees after 31 years under retiring president Gerald McEntee. He's been known for his zeal to build and maintain AFSCME's clout as a leading liberal voice and political kingmaker in the Democratic Party.
A major question is whether that should continue.
The race is shaping up as a broader debate on whether AFSCME should become more prudent in doling out cash to Democratic causes and candidates and perhaps make itself less a lightning rod for attacks from conservatives.
AFSCME Has Pledged To Spend About $100 Million This Election Cycle - more than any other union - to help re-elect President Barack Obama and boost other labor-friendly candidates at the federal, state and local levels.
AFSCME was the biggest overall spender in the 2010 midterm elections, pouring about $93 million into races around the country.
Donohue criticizes McEntee's approach as "checkbook unionism," saying the union has been too Washington-focused and has lost sight of the issues facing members locally.
"We seem to be trying to throw money at problems," Donohue said in an interview. "Instead of writing a check, how do we galvanize our members?"
"It's just not about the Senate and the House. It's about the governor races, the county races, who's going to be mayor in some cities. Our ENEMIES ... didn't start in
they started at the school board and county level," he
The union has been hit hard in recent years, losing about 10 percent of its members since 2009, according to public filings and internal documents reviewed by The Associated Press.
AFSCME claims it has 1.6 million members, but a spokesman says that includes retirees. That number has dropped to about 1,315,000 as of February, documents show.
Donohue claims the union doesn't share enough information with members about how their political money is spent.
Donohue has also criticized what he considers exorbitant spending and lavish salaries for the union's top leaders. McEntee earned a base salary of $387,671 in 2011. Donohue has pledged to slash that by $100,000 if he wins. Donohue currently earns about $200,000. Saunders' salary is $310,137.