Obama Claims Unions Not a ‘Special Interest’

By Matt Cover | February 28, 2012 | 3:27 PM EST

President Barack Obama speaks at a fundraiser in Miami, Fla. (AP Photo)

(CNSNews.com) – President Obama claimed that unions such as the United Auto Workers were not a “special interest” saying that being in a union was not a “bad thing.” However, unions are among some of the largest special interests in the country.

“They’re out there. They’re out there talking about you like your some special interest that needs to be beaten down,” Obama said at the UAW’s National Community Action Program Legislative Conference in Washington, D.C. “Since when are hard-working men and women who are putting in a hard day’s work every day, since when are they special interests?”

However, according to the Center for Responsive Politics’ Open Secrets website – which tracks lobbying and campaign spending data – organized labor is one of the all-time largest lobbying groups, spending $492 million on lobbying from 1998 to 2011.

In fact, labor unions spent more on lobbying in 2011 than they ever had before, spending $50 million according to Open Secrets.

Unions spread their influence through more than just lobbying, however, ranking among some of the largest independent campaign spenders in the country.

The UAW itself is listed among the Open Secrets ‘Heavy Hitters’ – a group of the largest political donation spenders since 1989. In fact, unions account for 12 of the top 20 Heavy Hitters listed. The UAW is ranked 18th on the list.

In fact, the AFL-CIO – the union umbrella group of which the UAW is a member – is the third largest independent election spender since 1989, according to Federal Election Commission data compiled by Open Secrets, beating out other major interest groups such as the pro-choice group EMILY’s List, gay-rights group the Human Rights Campaign, and dozens of industry groups such as the American Medical Association.

Since 1989, AFL-CIO has spent $40.3 million in independent campaign spending, with the overwhelming majority – $36.7 million – going towards political advertisements and direct mailers.

The only three interest groups who have spent more money than the AFL-CIO since 1989 are the American Federation of State, County, and Municipal Employees (AFSCME) – the government workers’ union – with $54.4 million, the National Rifle Association with $58.6 million, and the number one all-time interest group the Service Employees International Union (SEIU) with $70.6 million.

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