The country's largest labor organization, the AFL-CIO, is expected to back President Obama on Tuesday in an anticipated flexing of Big Labor's potential influence this election cycle. That comes more than a month after the union made a much quieter announcement in Virginia, where the union announced it is backing Democratic U.S. Senate candidate Tim Kaine -- an endorsement Kaine's campaign barely acknowledged.
Labor organizations are reportedly expected to dole out $400 million to help Democrats win national, state and local elections in 2012, and they have already pitched in to help propel Kaine's campaign. Political action committees affiliated with unions donated $124,000 to Kaine since he entered the race in early 2011, according to the Center for Responsive Politics, which tracks campaign contributions.
As governor and on the campaign trail, Kaine has defended the state's anti-union right-to-work laws, but he needs union support to compete in what is expected to be one of the most hotly contested Senate races in the county. For unions, Kaine is simply the better alternative to his likely Republican opponent, George Allen, who backed Republican governors across the country who tried to curb public workers' collective bargaining rights last year.
|Super PAC backs Allen|
|Republican Senate candidate George Allen is the first contender in the Virginia race to get the backing of a super PAC.|
|Paul Benneck, former executive director of the Republican Governors Association, started the Independence Virginia Political Action Committee last Friday, according to Politico, to provide $2 million to $3 million to aid Allen's fight against likely Democratic opponent Tim Kaine.|
|Super PACs, which can raise and spend unlimited amounts of money on campaigns as long as they remain independent of any candidate, have proven influential in the race for the Republican presidential nomination, largely by spending millions on negative ads.|
|Allen's campaign had no comment on the PAC Monday. Kaine, who hasn't been linked to a super PAC, immediately bashed Allen's in a fundraising email to supporters.|
|"George Allen can count on his special-interest pals to fund his attacks," said Mike Henry, Kaine's campaign manager.|
|- Steve Contorno|
Virginia AFL-CIO President Doris Crouse-Mays said the union endorsed Kaine because he was committed to "respecting the right to form unions, creating good jobs, fighting for quality public education, making affordable health care accessible to more Americans and making sure our seniors can retire in dignity."
Kaine's campaign website, updated daily with news clips, statements and knocks on Allen, made no mention of the AFL-CIO endorsement.
"Gov. Kaine is proud to have the support of both business owners and their employees in this campaign," Kaine campaign spokeswoman Brandi Hoffine said. "You don't get to be Forbes' Best State for Business four years in a row without fostering an environment where both groups can succeed."
Allen, meanwhile, frequently tries to make the unions an issue in the campaign, even proposing a national right-to-work law to push the issue into the spotlight.
"George Allen is the only candidate in this race with a record of protecting Virginia's right-to-work law to help attract jobs and investment, save taxpayers money and maintain our competitive advantage," Allen spokesman Bill Riggs said.
Kaine, Obama's former Democratic National Committee chairman, has sided with unions on occasion. Last year, he backed the Obama administration's criticism of Boeing when the airline manufacturer decided to move production of the 787 Dreamliner from union-friendly Washington state to right-to-work South Carolina. As governor, his initial nominee for secretary of the commonwealth was a former ALF-CIO chief.
Labor groups donated $2.2 million to Kaine's state campaign organizations from 2004 to 2010.