Labor unions finance GOP rift with tea party

WASHINGTON – A Republican group promoting pro- business candidates as it battles the tea party in primary campaigns is being financed mostly by labor unions, one of the Democratic Party’s staunchest allies.

Defending Main Street, a super-political action committee aligned with the Washington-based Republican Main Street Partnership, received more than 90 percent of its $845,000 in donations last year from labor groups, according to reports filed with the Federal Election Commission.

The group is led by former Ohio Rep. Steve LaTourette, a Republican who had good relations with labor in Congress. He voted for a minimum wage increase, the 2009 auto bailout and a bill making it easier to organize a union.

That record and LaTourette’s new alliance with labor though the super-PAC is drawing scoffs from leaders of the small- government tea party movement.

“It’s not surprising that a liberal Republican who supported big labor’s agenda in Congress would raise money from his allies in big labor,” Barney Keller, a spokesman for the Washington-based Club for Growth, said in a telephone interview. “It ain’t exactly dogs and cats living together. It’s more like birds of a feather.”

In an odd pairing, given its funding source, Main Street is working alongside the U.S. Chamber of Commerce, the nation’s largest business lobby, to defend Republican candidates deemed more practical and economic-minded over the tea party recruits.

The union financing for Main Street shows that some labor leaders are hedging their partisan bets, recognizing that Republicans are likely to hold a majority in the House after the midterm elections and bipartisan allies could be beneficial later.

Jay Lederer, communications director for the International Union of Operating Engineers, said that transportation and infrastructure projects that provide jobs are getting “bogged down in this extreme polarization we’ve seen” in Congress.

“We see Defending Main Street as one group and one way of part of our overall political program to try and get some more folks elected to Congress who are going to work together to get things like that done, instead of putting these things off in continuing resolutions year after year after year,” Lederer, whose union has donated to the super-PAC, said in an interview.

Sarah Chamberlain, the chief operating officer of the Republican Main Street Partnership, said it’s a “win-win” situation for her organization because the labor money will help defend Republican seats. “Why not take union money to maintain a majority in the United States House?” she said.

In some races, the result may be that labor is on both sides of a contest, with some union money going to the Democratic nominee in a Republican-held district that the super- PAC also is targeting.

Main Street plans to focus most of its resources on defending competitive House districts held by retiring Republicans, including one district in suburban Philadelphia, one in south-central New Jersey and another in northern Virginia near Washington, D.C., Chamberlain said. Democrats are also targeting those three districts as they seek a 17-seat net gain needed to overturn the Republican House majority.

Jesse Ferguson, a spokesman for the Democratic Congressional Campaign Committee, didn’t respond to an email seeking comment on the prospect of clashes between candidates his group backs and Republicans supported by union-funded Main Street.

Labor’s political activity has long tilted Democratic, though not exclusively so. In the 2012 campaign, unions gave $61.1 million to Democratic candidates and committees, compared with $6.1 million to Republicans, a ratio of 91 percent to 9 percent, according to the Center for Responsive Politics, a Washington-based group that tracks political giving.

Thus far in the 2014 election, labor groups have given $17.5 million to Democrats and $2.4 million to Republicans, a ratio of 88 percent to 12 percent.

The Main Street super-PAC and an allied nonprofit organization have raised about $2 million toward an $8 million goal, Chamberlain said. Super-PACs may raise money in unlimited amounts to fund television and radio commercials that directly advocate for the election or defeat of federal candidates.

It received $250,000 each from Working for Working Americans, a super-PAC associated with the United Brotherhood of Carpenters and Joiners; the International Union of Operating Engineers; and the Laborers’ International Union of North America.

While the Main Street super-PAC wants to focus on defending districts of retiring Republicans, its current top priority is aiding one of its House allies.

The super-PAC is prepared to spend up to $1 million to help Idaho Rep. Mike Simpson fend off a Republican primary challenge from Bryan Smith, a lawyer backed by the Club for Growth and other tea party-allied groups. The Chamber of Commerce is also supporting Simpson.

The super-PAC also received $50,000 from the Chickasaw Nation, an American Indian tribe based in Ada, Oklahoma, and $30,000 from David Bonderman, a founding partner of TPG Capital, a Fort Worth, Texas-based private-equity firm.

Bonderman has donated hundreds of thousands of dollars to Democratic candidates and committees within the past four years, including $175,000 to a super-PAC that helped Democrats defend their Senate majority in the 2012 election.

Chickasaw Nation didn’t return requests for comment. Bonderman declined to comment, Owen Blicksilver, a spokesman for TPG at Owen Blicksilver Public Relations Inc., said in an email.

Talk to us

More in Local News

Angelica Montanari and daughter Makena, 1, outside of the Community Health Center of Snohomish County Everett-Central Clinic on Thursday, Feb. 2, 2023. (Olivia Vanni / The Herald)
Providers at Community Health Center of Snohomish County vote to form a union

Providers expressed hope for improving patient care and making their voices heard with management.

Granite Falls
Two suspects charged in motorhome shooting near Granite Falls

Bail was set at $2 million for each of the suspects, Dillon Thomas, 28 and David Koeppen, 37.

The Everett Police Department hosted its first Guns for Gift Cards exchange on Saturday, December 17, 2022 at the South Precinct in Everett, Washington. 241 firearms were exchanged for $25,000 in gift cards. (City of Everett)
Everett considering ARPA money for business boost, gun buyback

Another proposal gives each council member discretion on spending $75,000 of the federal aid on local pandemic recovery efforts

Logo for news use, for stories regarding Washington state government — Olympia, the Legislature and state agencies. No caption necessary. 20220331
Supreme Court rules state’s new capital gains tax is legal

The 7-2 ruling clears the way for collection of payments starting next month. The tax is expected to bring in $500 million a year.

NO CAPTION NECESSARY: Logo for the Cornfield Report by Jerry Cornfield. 20200112
A thumbs up for capital gains, kind words for the Senate budget

It’s Day 75. Here’s what’s happening in the 2023 session of the Washington Legislature

A residential home is demolished at what will be the site of a new Lake Stevens Library on Wednesday, March 22, 2023 in Lake Stevens, Washington. (Sophia Gates / The Herald).
Site clearing begins for new Lake Stevens library

The initial work on Chapel Hill property brings dream of a new library closer to reality.

Rep. June Robinson, D-38
Schools, housing, salaries score big in Senate Dems $70B budget

The proposed spending plan also spends money to fight climate change, help abortion providers and study police pursuits

Dr. J. Matthew Lacy, Chief Medical Examiner for Snohomish County, answers preliminary questions from the state regarding his qualifications and experience as a medical examiner during the trial of Richard Rotter on Thursday, March 23, 2023, at Snohomish County Superior Court in Everett, Washington. (Ryan Berry / The Herald)
At Rotter trial, debate breaks out over graphic autopsy photos

A judge ruled some close-ups of Everett officer Dan Rocha’s injuries could be used, while others were ruled out.

In this side-by-side image, the Totem Diner and Pacific Stone Company signs put on a flirty display for all to see Wednesday, March 22, 2023, in Everett, Washington. (Ryan Berry / The Herald)
Signs of love on Rucker Ave: blushing rocks, scrambled eggs, a coffee date

Messages on display on Totem Family Diner and Pacific Stone Co. signs reveal “secret crushes.” More updates expected.

Most Read