Contact: Jonathan Reginella, 717-943-1796, [email protected]
House Committee Votes to Protect Public Resources from Campaign Fundraising
Bills Would End Government Collection of Campaign Contributions
November 21, 2017, HARRISBURG, Pa.”Today, the House State Government Committee advanced two versions of paycheck protection, SB 166 and HB 1174, which are major steps toward restoring integrity to Pennsylvania’s unfair political system. The bills would protect public resources by stopping the unethical practice of using taxpayer resources to collect and distribute campaign contributions.
Currently, government union leaders have the unique political privilege of using public payroll systems to collect their members’ campaign contributions”money donated to political action committees and candidates for office”and other money spent on political activity.
“Basic ethics says public resources should not be used for campaign fundraising,” commented Nathan Benefield, vice president and COO of the Commonwealth Foundation. “But, for decades, government union leaders have forced Pennsylvanians to subsidize their partisan campaign activity. It’s time to apply the same ethical standards across the board and stop subverting taxpayer resources to benefit a special interest.”
Since 2007, Pennsylvania taxpayers have helped government unions collect and spend more than $35 million in campaign contributions. These funds were deducted directly from workers’ paychecks using public payroll systems and sent to union leaders”making taxpayers the bagmen for union leaders’ electoral agenda.
Senate Bill 166 would end this corrupt system by requiring that government unions collect campaign contributions directly from members”just like every other organization”rather than relying on public resources.
In the past 10 years, Pennsylvania government unions have spent more than $100 million on politics from two sources: members’ mandatory dues money and members’ optional campaign contributions. While the House State Government Committee amended SB 166 to address only the latter category, HB 1174 would also prevent government from collecting union dues earmarked for political activity, such as donations to SuperPACs.
Contrary to myths driven by opponents of this reform, public-sector workers will retain every right to engage in political activity and donate to the candidates and causes they support, and unions will remain free to engage in political activity. The bills would simply remove taxpayers as the middleman in collecting union political contributions.
Sixty-seven percent of Pennsylvania voters support these commonsense reforms, as do 80 percent of union households.
“Lawmakers have been sent to prison for using public resources for political purposes,” Benefield continued. “Even something as simple as sending a campaign email from a government computer will land a politician in hot water”and rightly so. Yet, government union leaders continue to enjoy a perk that lets them evade this basic ethical principle. Today, the House State Government Committee took a tremendous step toward protecting the integrity of taxpayers’ dollars and restoring fairness to an unfair political process. We urge House lawmakers to support these good government reforms when they come to a floor vote.”
Click here for Commonwealth Foundation’s policy memo “Ending Taxpayer-Funded Collection of Campaign Contributions.”
Nathan Benefield and other Commonwealth Foundation experts are available for comment. Please contact Jonathan Reginella at 717-943-1796 or [email protected] to schedule an interview.
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