Koch Bros. vs. labor unions

In a recent letter to the editor of the Reno Gazette-Journal, reader George Wooster of Dayton wrote in response to U.S. Sen. Harry Reid's criticism of the Koch brothers' pouring corporate money into U.S. political campaigns. “I wonder if he and the Democratic Party would have more credibility if they were to mention that the Koch brothers are outspent in political contributions by no less than 11 labor unions as well as George Soros,” Wooster wrote.

Wooster named 10 unions and ActBlue, a Democratic fund-raising committee founded by two computer executives. He cited figures from the Center for Responsive Politics (CRP) as his source in comparing the spending of the two brothers with the spending of ten labor unions, ActBlue and Soros. However, when we checked the figures from the same CRP cited by Wooster, we found that unions are not really in the same league with business money.

“The broadest classification of political donors separates them into business, labor, or ideological interests,” CRP reports. “Whatever slice you look at, business interests dominate, with an overall advantage over organized labor of about 15-to-1. Even among PACs [political action committees]—the favored means of delivering funds by labor unions—business has a more than 3-to-1 fundraising advantage. In soft money, the ratio is nearly 17-to-1.

“An important caveat must be added to these figures: ‘business' contributions from individuals are based on the donor's occupation/employer. Since nearly everyone works for someone, and since union affiliation is not listed on FEC reports, totals for business are somewhat overstated, while labor is understated. Still, the base of large individual donors is predominantly made up of business executives and professionals.”

As for Soros, the same Center for Responsive Politics cited by Wooster found that Koch Industries invested $5,938,993 (83 percent going to Republicans) in PAC spending from 1989 to 2010 and found Soros Fund Management spending nothing. On 527 Group contributions, 2001 to 2010, Koch Industries spent $574,998 and Soros Fund spent nothing. On lobbying expenses, 1998 to 2010, Koch Industries spent $50,972,700, and Soros Fund spent $12.790,000.

ActBlue spending in the 2012 election cycle was $147,200,000, according to CRP.