Americas PAC, a Marion-based super PAC, largely is funded by a wealthy Illinois man who has made dismantling labor unions a key focus of his campaign donations.
Todd Dorman, a columnist with the Cedar Rapids Gazette, wrote this week about Americas PAC and how it is spending hundreds of thousands of dollars on a 12-week radio ad buy in Iowa’s 1st and 3rd congressional districts.
The Gazette reported that while the ads, which focus on impeachment and “social media stunts,” do not directly mention Finkenauer, the messaging leaves little room for doubt about the target. Tom Donelson, the Marion man who heads Americas PAC, told Dorman future ads will call out the congresswoman by name.
As Dorman pointed out, Richard Uihlein, a shipping magnate from Wake Forest, Illinois, has donated $500,000 of the PAC’s $501,062 raised in 2019.
A Washington Post article from April 2018 explores Uihlein’s influence on the 2018 midterms, noting his anti-union efforts in Wisconsin and Illinois.
“In recent years, Uihlein underwrote a fight against public-employee unions in Illinois that has become one of the most consequential labor cases to reach the Supreme Court,” the Post reported.
In Janus v. AFSCME, the Supreme Court ruled in June 2018 that public employees do not have to pay union dues to cover the costs of collective bargaining.
“The court, split along partisan lines, overruled 41 years of precedent in deciding that requiring employees to pay fees violates their First Amendment rights,” The Atlantic reported.
Given the 1st Congressional District’s strong union history and labor support, it will be interesting to see whether Uihlein directly contributes to the Republican candidate there or continues funneling money to Americas PAC.
Federal Election Commission filings show Uihlein has donated this year to Ohio Congressman Jim Jordan, a conservative firebrand tasked with making noise on the committee overseeing the impeachment hearings, President Trump ally Rep. Mark Meadows of North Carolina and Texas Sen. Ted Cruz, among many other Republican lawmakers.
1st District Rep. Abby Finkenauer grew up in a strong union family and has made labor issues a signature part of her first term in the House of Representatives.
On the campaign side, Finkenauer hosted her inaugural fish fry fundraiser earlier this month, in partnership with several unions’ PACs. The focus of conversations in Cedar Rapids that day were issues affecting blue collar workers and public employees.
Ashley Hinson, Finkenauer’s likely Republican opponent, has a history in the Iowa Legislature of voting to scale back the rights of union members.
On Feb. 16, 2017, Hinson and 52 of her House colleagues approved dramatic changes to Iowa’s 43-year-old collective bargaining law, including limiting union negotiations to base wages only and requiring employees to rectify the union at the start of all contract negotiations.
One month later, the Marion lawmaker voted to scale back the state’s century-old workers’ compensation law by limiting the amount of money employers would be required to pay injured employees.
The same year, Hinson joined her Republican colleagues in voting to take away the right of cities and counties to raise the minimum wage above the state’s $7.25 per hour.
“The last thing Iowans need is Ashley Hinson bringing to Congress more of the same sort of anti-worker policies that she voted for in the Statehouse,” said Brooke Goren, a Democratic Congressional Campaign Committee spokesperson, in a statement following Hinson’s announcement of her congressional campaign.
Though Americas PAC has not donated to Hinson’s campaign, FEC filings show she has accepted other PAC contributions.
In a recent interview with Gray Television in Washington, D.C., the broadcast centered on Winning for Women Action Fund’s support of Republican candidates like Hinson and EMILY’s List support of Democratic candidates like Finkenauer.
“There are not many Republican women who serve in Congress right now and I want to be part of the class that changes that,” said Hinson.
The reporter in the television spot said Hinson was in the nation’s capital “meeting with a network of Republican women” who were “connecting her with influential party leaders and briefing her with policy issues.”
“Having their support means the world because it means that somebody is advocating for you everyday wanting to make sure that they can do whatever they can to help me get here,” Hinson said.
By Elizabeth Meyer