Mr. Thiessen distorts the SEIU's record

Wednesday, November 3, 2010; 1:38 PM

Marc A. Thiessen is entitled to his own opinions, but he is not entitled to his own facts.

In a response to my Oct. 21 letter, Mr. Thiessen continues to misstate those facts in an apparent effort to divert attention from the fact that corporations - and not unions - have used the Citizens United decision to spend hundreds of millions of dollars in this election cycle without disclosing the source of those contributions. Mr. Thiessen raises as his "evidence" the Service Employees International Union's expenditures in the 2008 election cycle. So let's dig in.

SEIU's COPE Federal PAC expenditures, as reported to the Federal Election Commission, were over $47 million in that cycle, not the $40.9 million Mr. Thiessen stated. During 2008 (not the 2007-08 cycle, as Mr. Thiessen claimed) SEIU spent and reported to the IRS an additional $59,868,786 that did not come from the Federal PAC account and included money spent on activities directed by and directed to our own members. The two numbers do not reflect a "discrepancy" but rather sums from two different accounts used for different political purposes. And while Mr. Thiessen credits the National Right to Work Committee for "discovering" an SEIU political account designated for "member to member services" (the committee apparently has Internet access and can read public reports), he should know that federal election law expressly allows both unions and corporations to spend resources to talk to their own members and employees.

The key difference here that Mr. Thiessen has chosen to miss or obscure is simple: All of these union expenditures and all of their sources are fully disclosed on public disclosure forms - PAC reports filed with the FEC, reports of all union political spending and receipts on Department of Labor LM2 reports, and reports of member-to-member and other political spending on IRS Form 8872. What these reports show - both in the 2008 election cycle and in this cycle - is that our money comes from our members, and that money goes to candidates and causes that improve the lives of working people.

In stark contrast, vastly larger sums of corporate money are being spent this election cycle, and the public has no idea where the money is coming from. It is scandalous, and Mr. Thiessen should not be allowed to change the subject with immigrant-bashing and misstatements about union spending.

Jon Youngdahl, Washington

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

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