Ed Schultz Flunks Union Donation Math

Nice to see them finally get their lines straight.

After making a questionable claim without a shred of substantiation, Ed Schultz doubled-down with the assertion that what he said was backed up by the head of a major union. That it was -- but only after prodding by Schultz. 

Here's Schultz making the claim on his radio show Jan. 4 (audio) --

SCHULTZ: Now, I'm going to say this, as I said yesterday, I'm going to say it every day, organized labor in this country contributes one-tenth of one percent of the money to elections as opposed to corporations. Now how do we put that in personal terms? Well, you're in the workplace. And that stiff in the bullpen down the other end of the office, he's doing the exact same thing you're doing. But you know what? You're making a fraction of what that guy's making. In fact, he's making 99.9 percent more money than you are! Feeling good about that? That's the disparity! That is the gap.

Later in that same hour, Schultz asked United Steelworkers International president Leo Gerard about the disparity in campaign spending between unions and corporations. As you'll hear, it took a bit of coaching from Schultz before Gerard came around to the same percentage (audio) --

SCHULTZ: How much money do unions in this country, collectively, put into the election cycle as opposed to corporations?

GERARD: On what I would call a pre-Supreme Court decision where there was unlimited secret money, and we did about one-tenth of what corporations did. I would think that now that the Supreme Court  decision allows corporate money to go as unreported as they want and as big a volume as they want, I would not be shocked, Ed, if the next cycle it wasn't 20 times to 25 times more than the labor movement. Because what they're doing is they're attacking the labor movement's, and not only the labor movement, the progressive movement's ability to participate while they're opening and kicking open the doors for the ultra rich and corporates to participate. So ...

SCHULTZ: But the number that I had heard was one-tenth of one percent.

GERARD: Absolutely. Absolutely, as I said, but it's gonna get worse.

SCHULTZ: I mean, right now it's one-tenth of one percent of 100 percent!

GERARD: Yes ...

SCHULTZ: That's what the corporate world does versus the union influence and the union support.

GERARD: But Ed, that's before, let's be clear, that's before this Supreme Court decision to kick the doors open. That's based on the last cycle. That's not based on this cycle.

Several hours later, on his MSNBC show, Schultz reiterated the same suspicious claim, earning well-deserved criticism from NewsBuster Mark Finkelstein --

How off is Ed?  The National Review's Rich Lowry has documented that in the last election cycle, three unions alone kicked in $170 million to Dem coffers.  So corporations would have had to contribute . . . $170 BILLION to match Ed's alleged 1000:1 pace just for those contributions, ignoring the donations that all other unions made! ...

Note: Ed can't even be internally consistent.  He twice suggests that union donations are only 1/10th of 1% of corporate donations.  That would make corporate donations 1000x larger.  But his illustration of someone making 99.9% more would only amount to a bit less than twice as much.  So Ed's only off by a factor of about 500. (emphasis added)

Later in that broadcast of "The Ed Show," Schultz spoke again with Gerard on the same subject they had discussed several hours earlier on Schultz's radio show. This time, however, Gerard dutifully echoed the same figure claimed by Schultz (audio) --

SCHULTZ: I want you to address first the organized labor money when it comes to fees, dues versus corporate money. We need to clarify this because I am sick and tired of hearing right wingers on the air all over America tell us that the unions are buying elections.  What are the numbers?

GERARD: First of all, when they say that, they know they're lying and it's an out and out lie. In reality, the labor movement spends about one tenth of one-percent of what the total corporate money is, or rich person money included.

"We need to clarify this," Schultz suggested to Gerard -- given that unfortunate lack of clarity earlier on Schultz's radio show.

Having cajoled the unsourced figure from a cooperative guest, Schultz on his radio show the following day cited Gerard for "confirming" it (audio) --

SCHULTZ: Thank you, George (a caller). I will not give up and I won't fail to point out, as I've promised, that organized labor in this country gives one-tenth of one percent of the money corporations give in election cycles. I know it's mind boggling, but that is the number. Leo Gerard, Steelworkers International president, confirming that twice yesterday, on this show and on the tube.

Jack Coleman
Jack Coleman
Ex-liberal from People's Republic of Massachusetts