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Union enters presidential fray

AFL-CIO President Richard Trumka is featured in the union's super PAC ad urging miners in Ohio not to support Mitt Romney.

Workers’ Voice, the super PAC of the AFL-CIO, is going on the offensive this week with a series of direct mail and online advertisements attacking presumptive GOP presidential nominee Mitt Romney and his running mate Rep. Paul Ryan of Wisconsin.

The new ads, which focus on Medicare, coal and worker safety, mark the union-backed super PAC’s entry into the presidential race.

The mailer, published online by Politico, targets coal miners in Ohio. It highlights the growing risk of black lung disease and Republican efforts to block regulations that would increase worker protections.

The ad will be distributed to 100,000 mailboxes and is intended to counter Romney’s campaign appearance at a coal facility in Ohio later in the week.

In addition to Romney and Ryan, the online ad, to be displayed on the website of the Las Vegas Sun, strikes at Sen. Dean Heller, R-Nev., who was appointed to replace John Ensign and is in a contested race to keep his job. It claims the “Romney-Ryan-Heller plan” will “double seniors’ costs, raise the retirement age and throw seniors into an Rx donut hole.”

CNN reported the online ads cost around $50,000. Romney has yet to endorse Ryan’s sweeping plan to overhaul Medicare.

No response from the Republicans yet.

Workers’ Voice receives its primary financial support, not surprisingly, from unions, both directly from union treasuries as well as from union political action committees.

Top donors (counting both direct treasury and PAC contributions) include the AFL-CIO, the American Federation of Teachers, UNITE HERE (representing women in the hotel, gaming, food service, manufacturing, textile, distribution, laundry, and airport industries), and the International Brotherhood of Electrical Workers, according to the Center for Responsive Politics.

Before these ads published, Workers’ Voice only reported independent campaign spending had been $2,400 in support of Rep. Mark Crtiz, R-Penn., in Pennsylvania’s Democratic primary which, thanks to redistricting, pitted him against another incumbent for the House seat.

However, Workers’ Voice has spent much more than a few thousand dollars on advertising, just not on ads urging a yes or no vote for a candidate. The Sunlight Foundation reports Workers’ Voice has already spent around $7 million.

The expenditures include a $500,000 online ad buy to energize progressive activists against Romney, the Huffington Post reported in May, and a $50,000 Olympics-themed mailer sent to 250,000 mailboxes in Ohio, Pennsylvania, Michigan and Wisconsin at the start of the Olympics, Politco reported.

Workers’ Voice had $1.9 million on hand at the end of June, according to its monthly FEC report.

In other outside spending news:

  • The Republican National Committee reported spending $3.7 million on anti-President Barack Obama ads on Saturday.
  • Restore Our Future’s ad “Another Month,” which debuted yesterday, hammers Obama on the economy and for making “shameful” and “dishonest” attacks on Romney, who is backed by the super PAC. It is part of a $10.5 million ad buy in 11 states beginning today and running for seven days. Factcheck.org said the ad “twists [Obama’s] words way out of context.”
  • A new super PAC called Defend Paul Ryan, was launched to respond to “Radical Left” attacks against vice presidential nominee Paul Ryan, the conservative blog Breitbart.com reported. The super PAC is led by former Ohio Secretary of State Ken Blackwell.
  • Liberal super PAC Friends of Democracy reported spending $116,000 on web ads opposing Republican Reps. Raymond “Chip” Cravaack of Minnesota, Sean Duffy of Wisconsin, Charles Bass of New Hampshire and Dan Lungren of California. This adds to their $585,000 ad campaign reported Monday in the Daily Disclosure. The super PAC is financially backed by Jonathan Soros, son of liberal financier George Soros.
  • Really Out of Touch” from the Planned Parenthood Action Fund attacks Romney and Ryan on their positions on women’s health and Planned Parenthood.

New super PACs: Secretive Politics in Sugarland, Texas, American Crosswords in Washington, D.C., The Foundation for Innovation, Research and Education in Jacksonville, Fla., Progressive Independent Committee in Franklin, Tenn.

About the author

Rachael Marcus is a reporter with the Center for Public Integrity, a non-profit, non-partisan independent investigative news outlet, which contributes campaign finance coverage to Marketplace. For more of their reporting on money and politics go to publicintegrity.org.
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