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special interests • POSTED - 03.22.11 BY Keenan Steiner

Democrats raise funds from labor during clashes in states

As governors and legislators in many states attempt to curb public sector union benefits, congressional Democrats have turned to organized labor for campaign donations at Washington, D.C., fundraisers.

Since February, when the state labor disputes gained national attention, Democrats have scheduled at least 15 events that were either targeted at labor donor or hosted by unions, Party Time records show. There are at least four such fundraisers on tap next week, which would mean a total of 19 over a two-month span.

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Democrats turned to labor at least as many times during the same period last year, Party Time files show, but the fundraisers are more relevant this year when unions could use a lawmaker’s support in legislative battles back in their home state.

Two battleground states for unions are Wisconsin, where Gov. Scott Walker has signed a law curbing government unions’ collective bargaining rights, and Ohio, where a similar bill passed the state Senate on Mar. 2.

Rep. Betty Sutton, D-Ohio, planned a fundraiser on Mar. 10 aimed at labor and the Federal-Postal Coalition, which includes many unions as well as management organizations. A day later, Sutton’s presence was a draw for a Democratic Congressional Campaign Committee Labor Council fundraiser, which sought to bring in between $5,000 and $15,000 from labor PACs. Sutton co-chairs the council. Her office has not replied to a phone call asking if she attended the fundraisers.

Last election, the Ohio lawmaker benefited from over $325,000 in PAC donations from labor, $150,000 more than the average given to Democrats, according to the Center for Responsive Politics. She won a closely contested race.

Earlier this month, Sutton took to the House floor to criticize the Ohio legislation, saying, “the unfair, backward-thinking attack on Ohio’s firefighters, police, teachers, nurses, and other dedicated public employees must be stopped.” She joined protesters of the law at the Ohio Statehouse the week before.

Back on Feb. 10, a day before Walker unveiled his controversial plan, Badger State Rep. Gwen Moore. D-Wis., put on a “labor meet and greet” event, the invitation to which made clear that the event was “not a fundraiser” and “open to all Labor interests.” The affair, which Moore attended, was designed for the congresswoman to talk about her priorities for labor and was attended by donors who have traditionally supported her, according to a campaign spokesman.

Last week, Moore made a speech on the House floor to recognize “Wisconsin’s Fabulous 14,” the state’s Senate Democrats who fled to Illinois to prevent a vote on Gov. Walker’s controversial bill. In the speech, Moore said she was in Madison on Mar. 12, along with about 100,000 people, to welcome the senators back.

In New York, as Gov. Mario Cuomo seeks concessions from state workers, at least two of the state’s representatives have booked labor moneymakers this month. Steve Israel, D-N.Y., the chair of the DCCC, planned two events within a week of each other at the offices of the Teamsters union, according to Party Time invitations.

His delegation colleague, Carolyn Maloney, D-N.Y., has scheduled two labor breakfasts this month including one next week, which asks union PACs to donate between $1,000 and $5,000. A slew of groups, including the American Federation of State, County and Municipal Employees, have signed up to invite their labor colleagues to the event.

The lone Republican with a labor event on schedule over the last two months is Frank LoBiondo, R-N.J., who received more contributions from labor than any other sector last election, according to CRP. New Jersey Gov. Chris Christie wants public sector unions to pay more for their pensions and health care.

Out in California, as Gov. Jerry Brown has partnered with government unions in his state budget proposal, Laura Richardson, D-Calif., scheduled back-to-back events last week – first in Washington and then in her district. Her colleague Sam Farr, D-Calif., has booked a labor fundraiser next week.

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PARTYFINDER™ Hints

Beneficiary: congressional candidate, lawmaker, or entity which collects funds raised at party

Host: person who is hosting party-often, but not always, a registered federal lobbyist

Venue Name: where the party is

Entertainment Type: type of gathering, such as "breakfast," "ski trip," "bowling"

Other Lawmakers Mentioned: lawmakers mentioned on invitation who are used as a draw for the event

Sunlight's Party Time is a project to track parties for members of Congress or congressional candidates that happen all year round in Washington, D.C. and beyond. (read more)

We also post information we receive about parties where members of Congress are expected to participate—such as convention or inaugural parties.

Since we don't hear about all the parties, you can also tell us if you know where the party is and we don't.