- A new national report shows Governor Ron DeSantis’ Democratic opponent, Charlie Crist, received the most individual funds from unions in the 2022 cycle.
- A new Florida law enacted by DeSantis put a stop to automatic deduction of union dues for local government employees, setting a 60% membership fee threshold for union survival.
- Four major unions spent over $700 million on politics in the 2021-22 election cycle, with a significant portion derived from member dues, despite legal constraints on direct political campaign contributions.
(The Center Square) — A new report ranks Florida eighth for public sector union political spending, with Gov. Ron DeSantis’ leading Democrat rival, Charlie Crist, being the top individual recipient.
The report from the Commonwealth Foundation highlights how some of the most significant public sector unions in the U.S. have been spending membership money on political causes during election cycles. Crist received $219,000 in union-affiliated political action committees.
Overall, Florida ranked eighth, with total state union PAC spending amounting to $5.4 million. The National Education Association and the American Federation of Teachers are top spending unions, while Building the Bay PC was ranked as the leading PAC organization in Florida, receiving $384,000 from public sector unions in 2021-22.
In May, Gov. Ron DeSantis signed Senate Bill 256, sponsored by state Sen. Blaise Ingoglia, R- Spring Hill, which came into effect in July. The new law stipulates that employees of local governments will no longer have their union dues deducted automatically. Public unions must also cross a threshold of at least 60% of members paying fees or face decertification.
The report states that the four largest unions — the National Education Association, American Federation of Teachers, American Federation of State, County, and Municipal Employees and Service Employees International Union — spent over $700 million on politics during the 2021-22 election cycle, with almost 60% of the funds coming from member dues.
Illinois outpaced all other states for union PAC spending in state and local elections during the 2021-22 election cycle, followed closely by California in second and Minnesota in third.
Key findings note that despite a good portion of union PAC money coming from its members, the four largest unions spent over $2.79 billion during 2021-22, while less than 20% of total expenditures (around $554 million) was spent on representational activities.
While unions cannot legally use membership fees to contribute directly to political campaigns, union dues are frequently spent on independent expenditures, lobbying or political advocacy. They also contribute to so-called super PACs, political nonprofits and other organizations under “contributions, gifts, and grants.”
Through analysis of LM-2 reports for 2021 and 2022, the report noted a clear trend that shows how membership dues are a “cash cow” for organizations wanting to advance a progressive agenda.
The report pointed out that these reforms in Florida, which have also happened in Kentucky and Tennessee, show that it is possible for lawmakers to “take on government unions and win, much to the benefit of workers and taxpayers.”