AFL-CIO super-PAC to let volunteers shape spending decisions

Starting in August, AFL-CIO officials began collecting cards from volunteers that detail their activist work on behalf of the organization’s political causes and candidates. The information from the cards are then logged and volunteers are awarded points according to the work they completed. 

Volunteers can redeem the points to pay for online ads, phone-banking and canvassing for candidates and races that they care about. They can also pool their points with other volunteers.

“What we are trying to do is create a different kind of political activist: one who does work and gets the reward they think they deserve,” said Michael Podhorzer, the AFL-CIO’s political director.

RePurpose fits into the labor federation’s plan to build a permanent activist base that can do outreach to union as well as non-union members beyond elections. Volunteers directing political resources will be paid for by Workers’ Voice, which has raised more than $7 million this election cycle, according to the Center for Responsive Politics, a campaign finance watchdog group. 

One caveat, though, is that volunteers can only direct resources from the super-PAC that will support candidates endorsed by local labor councils, state labor federations or the AFL-CIO itself. 

The program will also be working with the Friends and Neighbors tool, another program by the AFL-CIO that connects a person’s Facebook friends with a battleground state’s voter file. Users of the tool are given phone numbers taken from the voter file for their Facebook friends that they can call and encourage to vote for a chosen candidate. 

“When these contacts are happening, they are coming from a trusted source that people are already used to hearing from,” said Jared Schwartz, the AFL-CIO-s digital department director, about the Friends and Neighbors tool.

The AFL-CIO has endorsed President Obama for reelection, and unions will be a key ally for Democrats as they try to turn out voters in November. 

At the press conference, Trumka took a swipe at GOP nominee Mitt Romney for his remarks at a private fundraiser that were released Monday. The AFL-CIO president said Romney hurt his standing with voters after saying half of Americans will vote for his opponent, Obama, because they’re dependent on government assistance.

“I think it’s going to have a pretty strong effect because he said he’s writing off 47 percent of the American population, that we’re all takers. ... It’s sort of sad and insulting,” Trumka said. “Now’s he got a much steeper mountain to climb to convince people that he’s an everyday guy and he’s with them and that he understands what they’re going through. What he said showed a total lack of understanding about what most Americans are going through.”