No secrets surrounding SEIU's political contributions

Thursday, October 21, 2010

I'll give the U.S. Chamber of Commerce and their allies, including opinion writer Marc Thiessen, credit. Despite living in a glass house of secrecy and unwillingness to disclose where their own money comes from, they have no qualms about throwing stones ["Are foreign and illegal workers funding Democrats' attack ads?," op-ed, Oct. 18].

Most of the political work of the Service Employees International Union is funded by about 300,000 janitors, nurses' aides, child-care providers and other members who voluntarily contribute on average $7 per month to SEIU's Committee on Political Education (COPE). To be eligible to contribute to COPE, you must be a U.S. citizen or permanent legal resident.

And if Mr. Thiessen had looked at public disclosures, he would know that money from SEIU's Canadian members pays for Canadian programs for workers. It is not used on U.S. political campaigns.

Here's the irony: Anyone who wants to know where SEIU political dollars come from can go on the Internet and check out the detailed public reports all unions and their political action committees are required to file with the Federal Election Commission and the U.S. Labor Department. But just try to find out where the U.S. Chamber of Commerce, American Crossroads and other right-wing front groups are getting the hundreds of millions of dollars they are spending to try to cut people's health-care coverage, privatize Social Security and let Wall Street make its own rules. (Hint: It's not possible because they don't disclose the sources of their big checks.)

The U.S. Chamber of Commerce, and the shadowy 527 and 501 (c)(4) groups that have sprung up in the wake of the Supreme Court's Citizens United ruling, are conduits for vast sums of undisclosed corporate money that threaten our democracy. We are a union of working people, and the money we spend on politics is money donated by workers.

Jon Youngdahl, Washington

The writer is national political director of the Service Employees International Union.

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