When Will Conservative Candidates Stop Accepting Public Sector Union Money?
Part One: Tim Donnelly’s anti-union rhetoric doesn’t match his pro-union record:
Public employee unions are a reliable target of California’s self-styled “patriot, not politician.”
“California’s governor and legislature have shown a complete disregard for the needs of businesses and working families, and have instead caved to unions and special interest supporters,” Assemblyman Tim Donnelly writes on his campaign website.
Yet, much like his spotty record on property rights, Donnelly’s anti-union rhetoric doesn’t match up with his record, which includes financial support from and sponsored bills for the very public employee unions that he loves to hate.
Donnelly’s anti-union rhetoric
In January, the Republican lawmaker attacked Gov. Jerry Brown for “confiscating the earnings of hard-working Californians” to squander it on “political pay-offs to his cronies in the public sector unions.”
The solution to public sector unions, who in Donnelly’s words, get to “legally bribe your boss,” is “to change it so that unions can’t have a stranglehold on every dollar that comes in.”
Back in his first campaign for State Assembly, it was the union dollars coming into Donnelly’s campaign.
Public employee unions’ financial support for Donnelly’s campaigns
In 2010, Donnelly “was the first to get a big donation from any of the state’s law-enforcement unions,” according to the Pasadena Star-News. That donation was a $5,000 contribution from the Los Angeles County Professional Peace Officers Association.
It wasn’t the only time public employee unions have supported Donnelly. In 2012, the California Correctional Peace Officers Association Independent Expenditure Committee spent heavily to attack Donnelly’s Democratic opponent, John Coffey. According to the Victorville Daily Press, “the group mass-mailed fliers with personal attacks against Coffey including accusations of domestic violence and unpaid child support.”
What have law enforcement unions received in exchange for this support?
Donnelly’s union-sponsored bill: special gun rights for law enforcement
This session, Donnelly carried a sponsored bill on behalf of the American Federation of Government Employees, Local 3969. According to UnionWorkers.com, “The American Federation of Government Employees (AFGE) is the largest federal employee union representing federal and D.C. government workers nationwide and overseas.”
Donnelly’s bill grants law enforcement a special gun right, not offered to the general public. Assembly Bill 1985 “allows federal correctional officers to possess and use assault weapons and other specified firearms while off duty,” according to the legislative analysis.
“By exempting Federal Correction Officers, we will not only allow them to protect themselves but also allow them to protect the citizens of our communities that they have sworn to serve,” Donnelly argued in support of his bill.
The idea of providing special gun privileges not enjoyed by the general public is what many Second Amendment activists describe as a “cops-only” gun bill. In 2013, Wisconsin Carry, a gun rights group, cautioned that such special exemptions for law enforcement was “the path to tyranny.”
“Granting special privileges to off-duty and former cops that allows them to ignore FUNDAMENTAL private property rights and carry where law-abiding concealed carry license holders cannot is a path to tyranny,” the group warned.
Part Two: Donnelly aide working with unions against San Diego GOP candidates
A top aide to a Republican candidate for governor is working with public employee unions to defeat Republican candidates in local elections.
Asher Burke, who assists Assemblyman Tim Donnelly’s gubernatorial campaign with “social media and online creative,” is also a principal officer of Public Safety Advocates, a political campaign committee working to defeat Republican-endorsed candidates in San Diego County.
According to campaign reports filed with the County of San Diego Registrar of Voters, the campaign committee has accepted tens of thousands of dollars from public employee unions, including the Deputy Sheriffs Association of San Diego County, the San Diego Police Officers Association and the Peace Officers Research Association of California.
Those funds are going to support Bob Brewer, who is running for San Diego County District Attorney. The Republican Party of San Diego County has endorsed Bonnie Dumanis, the incumbent, who has been outspent by Brewer.
“County records show Brewer also outraised Dumanis in the first six months of this year, bringing in more than $281,000,” the Voice of San Diego reported on the competitive race. “Dumanis received about $213,300 during the same period.”
Brewer, a first-time candidate, has received support from “11 police unions – including, most recently, the statewide California Coalition of Law Enforcement Associations,” according to the Voice of San Diego.
Union-funded Public Safety Advocates attack GOP candidates
Burke said the campaign committee welcomes the support of police and fire unions.
“Public Safety Advocates is a political expenditure committee for public safety organizations to support candidates they have determined will keep our local communities safer,” Burke said. “Almost every campaign, probably including Assemblyman Donnelly’s, would welcome the support of police and fire. If you were a candidate, wouldn’t you?”
John McCann Union MailerHe added, “As Jerry Brown continues to dump dangerous criminals on our streets, due to his early release boondoggle, I find my work with local groups like police and fire to be extremely important to maintaining the type of city and state I want to live in.”
In addition to backing the union candidate for district attorney, the campaign committee has spent money to attack John McCann, a candidate for Chula Vista City Council who has also been endorsed by the Republican Party of San Diego County.
A recent mailer distributed by the Public Safety Advocates campaign committee attacks John McCann as “the man who CAN’T.”
“John McCann is bad news for Chula Vista,” the mailer warns. “Tell McCann you CAN’T support his failed management and incompetence.” (A copy of the flyer is shown at the end of this article.)
Donnelly’s anti-union rhetoric
Burke’s work with public employee unions coincides with his work for Donnelly’s campaign for governor, which has repeatedly attacked the unions for excessive salaries and benefits. Writing in an open letter to Brown in 2011, Donnelly accused the governor of submitting new contract agreements that “protect the well-paid public employee unions, even at the cost of students, public safety, and jobs.”
According to state campaign finance records, Burke and his businesses, Burke Communications, Inc. and Campaign Services Group, Inc., have received $69,194 in payments from Donnelly’s gubernatorial campaign committee, of which $38,500 was for campaign consulting. It easily makes Burke one of the highest-paid employees of Donnelly’s low-budget campaign.
Donnelly’s campaign did not respond to a request for comment. However, in the past, the GOP candidate has boasted that hard-core liberals also work on his campaign.
“I have hard-core liberal Democrats working on my campaign as well as libertarians,” Donnelly told the Redding Tea Party in September 2013.
About the Author: John Hrabe spends his time traveling the world as a freelance journalist. When he isn’t on an international flight, John writes about state and national politics for CalWatchdog.com, FlashReport.org, Huffington Post and the editorial pages of the Orange County Register. John’s most recent high-profile investigation uncovered the questionable labor practices of Goodwill Industries, the nonprofit organization famous for its secondhand clothing stores. These articles originally appeared on CalNewsroom.com (“Tim Donnelly’s anti-union rhetoric doesn’t match his pro-union record,” May 9, 2014, and “Donnelly aide working with unions against San Diego GOP candidates,” May 11, 2014), and are republished here with permission from the author.