Businessmen now are contributing and spending at least as much as organized labor to support candidates in federal elections. And that news has labor unions worried.
The AFL-CIO's Committee on Political Education NCOPE) has predicted that corporate political action committees (PACs) "may well spend over $100 million in the 1980 election." If they do, their spending will substantially exceed organized labor's in the struggle to elect a president and Congress in 1980.
The National Political Action Committee (NPAC), a consortium of about 1,000 conservative and corporate PACs, is, according to organized labor, "amassing funds to defeat pro-labor senators and representatives whom they cosider vulnerable."
The objective, according to COPE director Al Barkan, is "to take over the US Congress this fall."
In addition to the NPAC, the AFL-CIO lists other organizations gathering funds to oppose pro-labor candidates, including the Business Roundtable of top corporate executives, the US Chamber of Commerce, the National Right to Work Committee, and the Committee to Defeat Union bosses' Candidates.
COPE and many individual unions are gathering funds contributed voluntarily by union members through their locals. While millions will be collected, the money labor can turn over to candidates is probably less important than the thousands of volunteer campaigners labor can supply to man telephones, distribute literature, register voters and see that they go to the polls, and otherwise work for candidates. This is a massive operation that business PACs find hard to match.
A study just released by Dr. David G. Moore, senior research fellow for the Conference Board in New York, showed that organized labor reported collecting $ 19.8 million in voluntary contributions in 1977-78 and contributing $10.3 million to candidates. Corporate PACs collected $17.7 million and contributed $ 9.8 million. Both business and unions have been working hard for the past year to build up political war chests for 1980.