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Report: Labor is Swamped by Business on WI Campaign Spending

March 18, 2011

MADISON, Wis. - With the massive labor protests at the state Capitol still fresh, a new report shatters some widely held beliefs about who spends what to influence the political process.

One of those myths is that big business and big labor contribute roughly the same amounts to political candidates in Wisconsin. However, a Wisconsin Democracy Campaign report released this week says labor spending is dwarfed by what businesses pour into campaign coffers. Mike McCabe is the executive director of the campaign, which tracks actual spending.

"Business puts in, on average, $12 for every dollar donated by labor unions when you look at all donations to candidates for state office here in Wisconsin."

Both Republicans and Democrats got more from business than from labor, but the ratio of business to organized labor contributions for Republican candidates was $104 to $1. McCabe says that could be one reason the state budget and budget repair bill were so business-friendly.

Republicans say they are trying to create a climate to encourage job growth, and McCabe says business has been very effective in getting what it wants in the current legislative session.

"They're getting more corporate tax breaks, and they are getting laws passed making it harder for people injured by defective products to sue for damages. They are really winning their agenda."

Labor, which has been drastically outspent, has been far less effective in accomplishing its goals with the recent near-elimination of collective bargaining for most public employees in Wisconsin.

Glen Gardner, Public News Service - WI