An AFL-CIO SuperPAC targeting Pennsylvania and four other swing states this presidential year is rolling out a unique way for spending its money: the harder volunteers work, the more say they will have in what issues and candidates the PAC supports.
The organized labor umbrella group unveiled the PAC last month, pitching it as a way to try to counterbalance the conservative SuperPACs that have spread like wildfire since the Supreme Court's Citizens United decision. The ruling allowed individuals, corporations and unions to give unlimited amounts to PACs that can make independent expenditures on campaign. It also allowed unions to reach out to nonunion workers for the first time.
The so-called Workers' Voice PAC cannot hope to match conservative fundraising -- who had a 20:1 edge over union spending in 2010 -- so it has to find other ways to be effective. Thus, the new spending money announced today at Huffington Post:
Participants who undertake campaign activities -- phone banking, neighborhood canvassing, field program volunteering and others -- will be rewarded the equivalent of super PAC currency. That currency, in turn, can be used to direct which candidates and issues Workers' Voice supports and how they support them, be it through online advertising, voter registration, Get Out The Vote operations or other mechanisms.
"We are kind of jumping off a cliff and opening ourselves up to democracy. We are going to empower people and empower workers in a way that's not been done before," said Workers' Voice spokesman Eddie Vale. "There may be a congressional race that isn't much on people's radar in D.C. But if there are a hundred activists in that congressional district who get their asses out of bed every morning and make phone calls and knock on doors, we feel they have earned the right to put [our] resources there."
Besides Pennsylvania, the PAC is setting up shop in Ohio, Michigan, Wisconsin, Florida and Nevada. The AFL-CIO represents 57 unions covering 12 million workers.