WASHINGTON – A Maryland-based labor union that represents machinists and airline workers is one of the nation’s biggest spenders on federal elections, according to government reports.
The International Association of Machinists and Aerospace Workers’ political action committee has given $4.2 million to parties and candidates over the last 2 1/2 years, according to Federal Election Commission records.
Besides being the biggest political contributor in Maryland since 1995, the Machinists Non-Partisan Political League was also the 11th-largest PAC in the nation in 1995-96. It slipped to the 12th-highest spender in the nation for the first six months of this year, according to an analysis by the Center for Responsive Politics.
“The PAC allows us to participate in this political arena. It allows us to compete with large individual contributors and large corporate contributions,” said Rich Michalski, director of the union’s legislative and political department.
Union spokesman Robert Kalaski said the machinists are one of the nation’s most diverse labor unions, with 775,000 members ranging from logging workers to tractor manufacturers.
The Upper Marlboro-based PAC gives almost exclusively to Democrats. Since 1995, the machinists have contributed $2.17 million to Democratic congressional candidates and only $7,750 to Republicans, the center’s analysis showed.
It is common for labor PACs to support Democratic candidates while corporate PACs traditionally support Republicans. That held true in Maryland, according to finance reports.
The largest corporate PAC based in Maryland, the Aircraft Owners and Pilots Association, gave more than 2.5 times as much to Republicans as it did to Democrats since 1995. The Frederick- based organization gave Republican congressional candidates $367,000 in that period and Democrats $138,000.
The 340,000-member group of general aviators — pilots and aircraft owners excluding military aircraft and the major commercial airlines — has given $1 million in total political contributions since 1995.
“The Federal Aviation Administration is very focused on the aviation world and we have to put our two cents in to not be trampled by the economic power of the large air carriers,” said spokesman Drew Steketee.
Spending by the aviators’ PAC made it the third-largest special-interest group in Maryland, behind the machinists and the No. 2 spender, the Camp Springs-based Seafarers International Union, which represents ship workers.
The Seafarers, based in Camp Springs, gave $1.9 million since 1995, including $667,150 to Democratic congressional and $222,599 to Republican candidates.
The fourth-largest special-interest spender in Maryland is the American Occupational Therapy Association in Bethesda. The group, which represents occupational therapists, gave $840,081 in federal contributions since 1995.
Another PAC, representing the Brotherhood of Railway Airline and Steamship Clerks in Rockville, gave just over $700,000 in the same time period, making it the state’s fifth-largest PAC.