The Corner

Liberal Orgs, Unions Funneling Money to Anti-Tea Party Group

Joseph Abrams of Fox News has conducted a detailed investigation of a series of anti-tea party groups, each appearing to be independent grassroots entities but in fact part of “a complex network of money flowing from the mountainous coffers of the country’s biggest labor unions and trickling slowly into political slush funds for Democratic activists.”

The largest single benefactor of the groups is the American Federation of State, County and Municipal Employees (AFSCME), which in 2008 alone donated $10 million to two front organizations. A number of other prominent unions, including the Service Employees International Union, Change to Win, the Communications Workers of America, the National Education Association, the Teamsters Union, the United Food & Commercial Workers Union, and others were also significant contributors:

But a close look reveals the APPC’s place in a complex network of money flowing from the mountainous coffers of the country’s biggest labor unions into political slush funds for Democratic activists.

Here’s how it works: What appears like a local groundswell is in fact the creation of two men — Craig Varoga and George Rakis, Democratic Party strategists who have set up a number of so-called 527 groups, the non-profit election organizations that hammer on contentious issues (think Swift Boats, for example).

Varoga and Rakis keep a central mailing address in Washington, pulling in soft money contributions from unions and other well-padded sources to engage in what amounts to a legal laundering system. The money — tens of millions of dollars — gets circulated around to different states by the 527s, which pay for TV ads, Internet campaigns and lobbyist salaries, all while keeping the hands of the unions clean — for the most part.

The system helps hide the true sources of funding, giving the appearance of locally bred opposition in states from Oklahoma to New Jersey, or in the case of the Tea Party Web site, in Illinois.

One of the groups created a web site, TheTeaPartyIsOver.org, dedicated to stopping tea partiers’ attempts to, in its words “undermine . . . the legitimacy of the federal government in favor of a radical rightwing form of state’s rights,” and “prevent their dangerous ideas from gaining a legislative foothold.”

Daniel Foster — Daniel Foster is a former news editor of National Review Online.

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