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Alaska Beat

Citizens United: Alaska labor unions raised the most for Super PACs

  • Author: Craig Medred
  • Updated: September 27, 2016
  • Published November 27, 2012

In November's election, state labor unions outraised business-supported Super PACs by a landslide, the Anchorage Daily News reports, via the Miami Herald.

Super PACs came into being with the Citizens United decision, which found that corporations and unions enjoy the same free speech protections as individual Americans to spend unlimited amounts of money for and against political candidates, as long as those groups don't coordinate with candidates.

Alaska was one of the first states to experience how Citizens United impacted local politics. In 2010, the group Alaskans Standing Together came together to support U.S. Sen. Lisa Murkowski's write-in effort against Joe Miller, who had beat the incumbent in the Republican senatorial primary.

In the most recent election, state labor organizations raised $536,500 with their Super PAC Putting Alaskans First, while two major business supported Super PACs, The Accountability Project and We Are Alaska, only brought in $152,500 and $135,000, respectively.

The ability of labor unions to outspend private businesses was not anticipated. Back in June, Vince Beltrami, president of Alaska AFL-CIO told Alaska Dispatch, "There's no way we can compete with the money that comes out of oil industry."

Most of the money spent in November's election was funneled to the state Senate races, which were hotly contested due to redistricting.

State labor organizations ramped up their fight especially because of Gov. Sean Parnell's proposed oil tax cuts, which were rejected by the bipartisan coalition made up of Democrats and Republicans in the Senate. Yet even with the money spent, Alaska Democrats lost big in the election, and now the state is seeing a Republican-controlled Legislature.

If a proposal similar to Parnell's is revived and passes in the next legislative session, it could mean $2 billion less annually being poured into the state coffers. Organized labor could see the effects ripple through their workforce as the state faces a potential budget crunch.

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