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How government unions supported political causes in Maryland

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(The Center Square) — A report by The Commonwealth Foundation shows where public sector unions contributed most to political action committees, and Maryland placed 11th on that list, falling shy of the top 10 by about $350,000.

Though unions are prohibited by law from using membership dues to support political candidates directly, unions can flex political muscle by funding independent expenditures, donating to PACs and supporting lobbying or advocacy efforts.

The report specifically analyzed where the four largest public-sector unions — the National Education Association, the American Federation of Teachers, the American Federation of State, County, and Municipal Employees and the Service Employees International Union — spent the most money during the 2021-22 election cycle.

Though unions often affirm that membership dues are not being used to fund political candidates that [members] do not support, the report found member dues “accounted for nearly 60% of all union political spending” via the methods previously described.

The unions contributed most to PACs in Illinois and California by a large margin, donating $27.9 million in Illinois and $24.9 million in California.

Maryland fell just behind Massachusetts, the state with the 10th-highest union PAC contributions (again, from the four unions mentioned above), with contributions totaling over $3.3 million.

The top-spending union in the Old Line state was the NEA. The PAC that received the most union dollars was Maryland Opportunity Inc. at $645,000. Tom Perez, who ran for governor of Maryland and held prestigious roles as the secretary of labor under President Barack Obama and, more recently, the Democratic National Committee Chairman, received more union PAC contributions than any other Maryland political candidate during that time, at $36,000.

The report found that most of these unions’ PAC contributions ultimately supported the Democratic Party, “with 95.7% of contributions going to Democratic candidates and organizations across state and federal elections.” Also, though most union revenues came from membership dues in 2021-22, most union funds were spent on “land, buildings, and salaries and benefits for union employees,” instead of membership support.

The Maryland State Education Association, the Maryland affiliate of the National Education Association, has 76,000 members. AFT-Maryland boasts 18,000; the AFSCME represents 45,000 employees in Maryland; and the Maryland-D.C. Division of the SEIU represents 10,000.

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