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Trumka: Unions likely outspent 20-to-1


As we noted in First Thoughts, Democratic-leaning outside groups are being far outspent by conservative ones.

This morning, in a meeting with reporters at AFL-CIO headquarters, AFL-CIO President Richard Trumka said he expects labor unions will be outspent 20-to-1 by corporate groups aligned with Republicans.

Trumka declined to discuss the amount of money the union he heads is spending or plans to spend. He said the AFL-CIO plans 25 "touches" per union member.

He added that the AFL-CIO is playing in 18 Senate races and about 100 House races, but not necessarily with TV ads.

"Information trumps those ads," he insisted, his back to a view of the White House and Washington Monument.

He said, in particular, the union is focusing on six states with heavy union membership -- Ohio, Pennsylvania, New York, Nevada, Illinois, and California. A union "firewall," perhaps. Trumka also said the union plans to make a "serious run" at the three-way Senate race in Alaska. Democrats hope Tea Party-backed Republican Joe Miller and incumbent Lisa Murkowski, running a write-in campaign, split votes, giving an opening to Sitka Mayor Scott McAdams (who's running an ad invoking the late-Republican-Sen. Ted Stevens).

One place, however, where the AFL-CIO played heavily -- and wasn't shy about saying what they were spending -- was in Arkansas. Unions spent about $10 million to try and oust incumbent Democratic Sen. Blanche Lincoln. But Lincoln won.

Asked if he has any regrets about spending that much money there, Trumka responded: "Absolutely not, because when you have principles at stake, you defend your principles. And we'll do it again. You'll see us do it in more primary races in the future. Not less -- more. And some of them will be successful and some of them won't, but people will understand that we're willing to fight for working people."

He claimed the money spent created "enthusiasm" in Arkansas, and that they have more volunteers there than they ever had before. Lincoln, however, remains one of the most vulnerable incumbents in the country and is down double-digits in public polls to Republican Rep. John Boozman.

"You ever see that ad that says, you know, a cup of tea $2, baseball bat $12, shirt $25, the other one priceless?" Trumka said. "Blanche Lincoln -- priceless."

Asked if she would be worse than Boozman, however, Trumka said, "She gave us no votes. She didn't help working people. It doesn't matter if it's a Democrat or a Republican voting against you, the votes are the same."

Asked about the biggest challenge in talking to union members about President Obama or Democratic leadership in Congress, he said it was "misconceptions about the stimulus package and the bailouts, because Republicans have done a good job of skewering that. If it wasn't for the stimulus package, we'd be in a Depression right now. ... This president's created more jobs during a Recession than George Bush did in eight years as president."

Republicans, he said, are "a lot better at distorting reality."

Trumka insisted that voters who are undecided but become educated about what Democrats are trying to do, can be convinced.

"If all you're getting is Rush Limbaugh and Glenn Beck's version of America," Trumka said, "if that's where you get your news from, you're obviously going to have a different opinion of America than somebody that actually reads the facts and tries to get knowledgeable about various issues."

He added that the union is and will be hammering the issues of outsourcing and the minimum wage.

On Rahm Emanuel's departure from the White House as chief of staff, Trumka said, "He's pursuing his lifetime dream. ... I wish him luck."

He added that he just wants a "receptive" and "analytical" White House -- which is certainly hard to miss right outside his office window.