WASHINGTON – Organized labor gave nearly a half million dollars to House members from Maryland for last year’s election, with the biggest chunks going to long-time union allies Steny Hoyer and Albert Wynn.
Hoyer and Wynn received 72 percent of the $491,377 organized labor doled out to Maryland’s eight congressmen during their 1994 campaigns, an analysis of federal records showed.
Hoyer, D-Mitchellville, received $237,083 – nearly half the total – despite his vote in 1993 to ratify the North American Free Trade Agreement, which organized labor bitterly opposed.
Some labor leaders had vowed to cut off, or at least limit, union support for House members who voted against an issue they placed at the top of their agendas. Other union officials said they viewed the NAFTA vote as only one of many issues.
“Hoyer has been a great friend throughout his career,” said Myke Reid, assistant legislative director of the American Postal Workers Union. He also cited Hoyer’s position in the House leadership before last year’s Republican sweep as a reason why the eight-term Democrat drew considerable financial backing from unions.
Wynn, D-Largo, received $114,994 from labor during the 1993-’94 election cycle, the computer-assisted analysis of Federal Election Commission records showed. He said that because he served in the state legislature for a decade before coming to Congress in 1993, unions “know me well.”
Wynn introduced legislation in February to raise the $4.25 hourly minimum wage to $5.25. He also said he has opposed efforts to repeal the 1931 Davis-Bacon Act, which requires building contractors on federal jobs to pay a community’s prevailing wage.
The Capital News Service analysis also showed that money funneled to Maryland Democrats by the unions during the 1994 campaigns outstripped money given to the Republicans by more than a 10-to-1 ratio.
The Democrats – Hoyer, Wynn, and Baltimore Reps. Kweisi Mfume and Benjamin Cardin – received $447,727.
The Republicans – Reps. Constance Morella of Bethesda, Wayne Gilchrest of Kennedyville, Robert Ehrlich Jr. of Lutherville and Roscoe Bartlett of Frederick – received $43,650.
Morella’s $37,150 accounted for about 85 percent of the total given to Maryland Republicans.
Donations to the congresswoman, whose 8th District is home to 85,000 active and retired federal employees, included $6,000 from the National Association of Retired Federal Employees and $4,000 from the National Association of Letter Carriers.
Part of the reason for the partisan favoritism could be that the Democrats’ votes in Congress were more in line with key issues embraced by labor groups, such as the AFL-CIO.
David Hoffman, a spokesman for the American Federation of State, County and Municipal Employees, said few Republicans “take positions that representatives of working people think make sense.”
All of the Maryland Democrats in 1994 scored higher ratings with the labor federation than all of the Maryland Republicans.
Mfume received a 100 percent rating from the AFL-CIO in 1994 for nine votes cast in the House, including votes opposing the balanced budget amendment and the General Agreement on Tariffs and Trade. GATT was negotiated over several years by the United States and its trading partners to change – or eliminate – tariffs for some industries.
Democrats Cardin and Wynn received 89 percent ratings from the AFL-CIO in 1994, and Hoyer received a 78 percent.
Morella earned the highest rating among Maryland Republicans, with a 56 percent. She said her votes reflected the middle ground and were “right where the American people are.”
Ehrlich, a freshman, was not elected until November 1994 and thus was not rated. Fellow Republicans Gilchrest earned a 22 percent rating while Bartlett was given a zero.
Raymond O. Metz, president of the Western Maryland Central Labor Council in Cumberland, called Bartlett’s voting record for working people “very dismal.”
In meetings with Bartlett, union leaders expressed their opposition to cuts in Medicare and Medicaid and “found little or no sympathy from him,” Metz said. “We found this to be true on other issues that affect working people.”
Bartlett said the Republican plan to change Medicare would raise costs from $4,800 a person to $7,100. “It’s tough to call it a cut. It’s going up faster than the cost of living,” he said.
Bartlett was not perturbed by his AFL-CIO rating. “Union leaders would have problems with me. Members don’t have problems with me,” he said.
In nearly all cases, unions reduced the amount of money they gave to Maryland congressmen between the 1992 and 1994 election cycles. Cardin was the exception.
The $43,450 unions gave Cardin for his 1994 campaign represented an increase of nearly 39 percent over the $31,350 he got for his 1992 campaign.
Ray McInerney, AFSCME’s political and legislative director in Baltimore, said Cardin’s position on the House Ways and Means Committee, which considered major portions of President Clinton’s health care reform plan, was one reason why unions increased their support for him.
AFL-CIO officials said they pared funding to other Maryland representatives in a “conscious decision to focus on closer races,” said spokeswoman Candice Johnson. She did not cite specific races.
Cuts were made despite higher ratings by the labor federation for all Maryland representatives but Gilchrest. The AFL-CIO gave Gilchrest a 36 percent rating in 1992, but dropped it to 22 percent in 1994.
Gilchrest received only $2,500 in union funding during the 1993-94 cycle, a single donation from the Airline Pilots Association.
“That sounds about right,” said Gilchrest, who said he purposely avoided taking special-interest money. He said his votes to protect the environment annoyed conservatives and votes to oppose a Democratic proposal to ban the use of replacements of striking workers angered unions. “You sort of know if it’s a very conservative or a very liberal group. They don’t like my votes,” Gilchrest said. -30-