Meeting the PAC Challenge
Corporations outspend labor in politics 19 - 1. Although unions could never match the donations of corporations, we do have the opportunity to play a larger role in financing political activism through our Political Action Committees (PACs). If we could sign up every Steelworker member in the United States in our PAC check off program for a minimum voluntary contribution of $1.00 per week, we have the potential to raise in excess of $15,000,000 per year.
These contributions, along with the level of activism that we have already achieved, would allow us to win much needed legislation, such as health insurance for steelworkers who lost their jobs because of the failed trade policies of the past decade, lower prescription drugs for all Americans, better trade policies that would stop the mass exodusn manufacturers, and possibly even the much-sought-after National Health Care for all Americans.
The opposition we face in addressing these challenges is formidable:
Health Insurance and HMO Industry
The civil and human rights issue of our time – health insurance reform so that all Americans have access to affordable health care – is one of the most hotly debated topics in our nation. This issue is very important to USW members because health care cost is the No. 1 issue at the bargaining table. Until we can reform the system so that those with insurance are protected and not forced out when they get sick, we can’t focus much on wages and pensions for our retirees.
Lobbyists representing insurance companies and HMOs (health maintainence organizations) are spending big to try to have their interests represented. Besides universal health care, managed care reform, prescription drug coverage and tax policy are major issues for this industry.
In 2007 and 2008, the insurance industry contributed a record $46.7 million to federal parties and candidates, with 55 percent of those donations going to Republicans.
Insurance companies staunchly oppose the idea of a government-provided health insurance option, which President Barack Obama and most congressional Democrats support. These businesses fear that implementing a “public option” will eventually lead to the collapse of their industry.
Separately from the insurance industry, HMOs and managed-care organizations contribute, by far, the most within the health care sector to federal candidates, committees and parties. UnitedHealth, Blue Cross/Blue Shield and Aetna Inc. top the list. Contributions from the industry have been largely Republican over the last decade, and 60 percent of the industry’s 2006 cycle contribution total of $8.2 million went to Republican candidates. But in the next cycle, HMO contributions shot up to $14.1 million and only 40 percent of this total went to the GOP.
Insurers and HMOs generally oppose President Obama’s proposal to institute a public insurance option. Once this piece of health care legislation is resolved, the Democratic-controlled Congress may change Medicare to allow the government to negotiate directly with pharmaceutical companies for discounts, an initiative that could harm HMO’s finances. The health services and HMOs industry, which was pleased with the 2003 passage of Medicare reform legislation, looks to block efforts to cut payments to Medicare HMO plans in the future.
Major lobbying players in the industry are UnitedHealth Group, DaVita Inc and Aetna Inc., which each spent more than $2 million in 2008 on lobbyists. In total, the industry spent a whopping $61.2 million on lobbying in 2008.
Green and Alternative Energy
Domestic manufacturing is the answer to our economic woes, and good, clean, modern manufacturing jobs are the best path to the middle class for our kids and grandkids. The so-called “green” economy, or jobs and industry that provide alternative energy and other environmentally-friendly products and services, are the future. We need a voice to push for these jobs to be created in the United States instead of overseas.
Going green is big business, and the traditional energy companies have a lot at stake in the debate that also involves rising oil prices, national security concerns and an increasing push for a more sustainable energy supply. So it’s no surprise there is a lot of money being spent by lobbyists on both sides.
Alternative energy comes in a variety of forms. It includes wind, solar, geothermal, hydroelectric, crop-based ethanol and other biofuels. It's also been at the center of a number of debates on Capitol Hill.
Alternative energy producers are small players compared with the more traditional fossil fuel industries. Since 1990, they have only given $4.6 million to federal candidates and parties, a fraction of the $20 million to$30 million the oil and gas industry usually shells out each cycle.
Alternative energy producers support President Barack Obama’s climate change bill, which includes a cap-and-trade measure.
As a whole, the alternative energy industry spent almost $32.2 million on lobbying efforts in 2008, representing a dramatic increase from previous years.
Though their contributions are dwarfed by those of car dealers, auto manufacturers monitor a host of legislative issues in Washington – among them, trade issues, import quotas and fuel efficiency and safety standards for the latest models of cars and SUVs.
Auto manufacturers donated nearly $3 million to federal candidates in 2008.
Because the domestic auto industry is so important to our nation – some 7.2 million jobs from factories to first responders are connected to the industry, including hundreds of thousands of USW jobs – what happens in this industry is extremely important to us all.
Pharmaceutical companies, which develop both over-the-counter and prescription drugs, have been among the biggest political spenders for years. Pharmaceutical manufacturers donated more than $15.6 million to federal candidates in 2008. While the industry has traditionally supported Republican candidates, some key players have recently increased donations to Democratic candidates as the GOP’s power in Washington erodes.
The pharmaceutical manufacturing industry stands to lose if President Obama’s plan to institute a public health insurance option succeeds. A government-run plan, because of its size, would have considerable negotiating power to draw down drug prices.
Less controversial policy concerns animate these companies, as well. A top industry contributor, Pfizer Inc., joins other donors in supporting initiatives to protect intellectual property and to ensure that innovative drugs are competitive with both imported drugs and generic copies entering the market too quickly. The industry could also lose financially as Congress looks to curb the rising cost of prescription drugs by empowering the Department of Health and Human Services to negotiate prescription drug prices for Medicare. Pharmaceuticals will continue to push for more streamlined patent application processing and speedier drug approvals—both of which would increase the bottom line substantially for pharmaceutical companies.