The Alaska Republican Assembly says money from public employee union PACs has been the decisive factor in defeating local conservative candidates across Alaska. Now they are offering what they say is a solution.
The Alaska Republican Assembly (AKRA), who touts themselves as “the Republican wing of the Republican Party, sent out an email from their president Daniel Hamm Saturday saying:
“Corrupted public taxpayer dollars flowing into PACs have recently been used to win all the major executive positions in Alaska including the governor and the mayors of Anchorage, North Star Borough, Mat-Su Borough, and Kenai Peninsula Borough.
The best example is the Mat-Su Borough mayor election on October 6th where Anchorage public union money funneled across borough lines to defeat one of the most popular conservative mayors in a generation and in the most conservative borough in Alaska. The lesson here is that no seat is now safe in Alaska.
The first step in diffusing (sic) this class war and resuming the balance between the public and private sector is paycheck protection. Should public tax dollars be forcibly deducted from an individual’s paycheck for political purposes without their consent? Should the public sector be the servant of the private sector or its master?”
Alaska Republicans have indeed taken a beating in the last year in elections for executive positions, both at the state and local level. Alaska Republican Party backed candidates have lost all of the seats mentioned above, plus the mayor’s race for the CIty and Borough of Juneau.
How much of that was due to public employee unions and their PACs? In the Anchorage mayor’s race, four public employee unions (IAFF, NEA, APEA, and APDEA) spent $101,000 to form a group called Berkowitz For A Better Anchorage and public employee union PACs spent at least another $17,000 in direct candidate contributions to help elect Ethan Berkowitz Mayor.
So yes, union PAC play heavily in Alaska elections, both at the state and local level. How much that money actually decides those elections is an open question.
It’s worth noting the public only knows of these figures because unions, like most other groups, are required to disclose their spending intended to affect the outcome of elections. That is something Americans For Prosperity, a right-leaning public issues advocacy group, refused to do while playing to affect the same election on behalf of conservative candidates.
Public employee union members simply can not be barred from donating to union PACs as a matter of free speech. According to current law those same employees can not be compelled to donate to their given union’s PAC as a condition of employment. The only question AKRA is asking state legislators to take up this session is whether or not government collection of union PAC money is appropriate.
Currently union PAC contributions are deducted from union employee paychecks, with the employee’s consent, and then remitted to the union and union PACs, thereby utilizing whatever payroll deduction system their employer uses. In this case those employers just happen to also be government agencies.
Is government being involved in that process in any way appropriate?
The AKRA doesn’t think so. They have posted template legislation on their website that would bar any state or local governments from deducting and remitting union PAC contributions from employee paychecks.
Will a state legislator take up the AKRA’s call and sponsor such legislation this session. If they did, would a legislature facing a come-to-Jesus moment on the state budget want to spend time this year fighting public employee unions on the issue? As of now, neither question has an answer.
While the question of government, as an employer, withholding and remitting political contributions is a fair one, the AKRA should be cautioned against going too far in their rhetoric.
They are perilously close to implying that since these workers are government employees that their income going in any way towards political activity amounts to government funding of that activity. Appearing on AM 1080 KOAN yesterday afternoon Hamm said such deductions amounted to “using taxpayer money to fund elections.”
This is a dangerous line of thought for the libertarian friendly AKRA. It implies that once government pays someone that government then has the power to dictate to that person their speech and association activities otherwise guaranteed as rights. Do conservatives really want to imbue government with this dictatorial control over people’s lives?