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Political Notebook

AFL-CIO envisions forming ‘super labor PAC’

Vice President Joe Biden tried archery during his meeting with Prime Minister Sukhbaatar Batbold of Mongolia (left). Vice President Joe Biden tried archery during his meeting with Prime Minister Sukhbaatar Batbold of Mongolia (left). (Zeev Rozenberg/Reuters)
Associated Press / August 23, 2011

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WASHINGTON - The AFL-CIO hopes to boost its clout by launching a political action committee that could raise unlimited amounts of money, part of the federation’s goal of building a year-round political organizing structure.

Forming a “super labor PAC’’ would allow the federation to raise money from sympathetic donors both inside and outside union membership and mobilize support beyond its traditional base, instead of ramping up political activities each election cycle.

The move would also help steer more of labor’s money to state legislative battles, where unions have been battling efforts to curb labor rights in such states as Wisconsin and Ohio.

“The essential idea is that changes in the law for the first time really allow the labor movement to speak directly to workers, whether they have collective bargaining agreements or not,’’ AFL-CIO political director Michael Podhorzer said.

“Before, most political resources went to our own membership.’’

Labor leaders discussed the plan at the AFL-CIO executive council meetings earlier this month, but officials said that the idea remains subject to final approval over the next few weeks.

Both GOP- and Democratic-leaning superPACs have flourished since a landmark 2010 Supreme Court ruling that allows corporations and unions to spend unlimited cash in support of, or against, candidates for elected office.

The superPACs must operate independently of candidates.

More than 100 superPACs have sprouted since the high court’s decision and are expected to play a major role in the 2012 elections.

Unions remain a pillar of the Democratic Party, spending about $400 million to help elect Barack Obama president in 2008 and directing another $200 million to help Democrats during the 2010 midterm elections.

Obama to speak in Detroit at annual Labor Day event WASHINGTON - President Obama will travel to Detroit on Sept. 5 to speak at the city’s annual Labor Day festivities.

The White House says Obama will speak at an event sponsored by the Metro Detroit Central Labor Council.

It will be Obama’s second trip to Michigan in a month. He visited a battery plant in Holland, Mich., on Aug. 11.

Obama has touted his administration’s work to rescue General Motors and Chrysler, which are both based in the Detroit area.

Chaffetz won’t challenge Senate incumbent Hatch SALT LAKE CITY - Representative Jason Chaffetz of Utah said yesterday that he would seek a third term in Congress instead of challenging incumbent and fellow Republican Senator Orrin Hatch.

The decision comes after Chaffetz, one of Congress’s most conservative members, hinted for months that he planned to challenge Hatch. He revealed the decision during a news conference on the University of Utah campus.

Hatch, 77, has been pushing to gather support among Tea Party Republicans because of the possible challenge from Chaffetz and others. In 2010, Tea Party members led the way in sacking Hatch’s colleague, longtime conservative Senator Robert Bennett, at the Utah party convention.

Hatch has more than $3 million in his campaign account.

Biden, visiting Mongolia, lauds shift to democracy ULAN BATOR, Mongolia - Vice President Joe Biden tried his hand at archery, watched a wrestling match, and named a horse during a brief visit yesterday in Mongolia, which he called a shining example of democratic development.

Biden praised Mongolia for successfully carrying out presidential and parliamentary elections after making a peaceful transition to democracy in the early 1990s. The small, landlocked country had been a Soviet satellite for decades.

“In the last 20 years Mongolia has captured the imagination of the world by its remarkable transition to democracy,’’ Biden said.

Later in the day, Biden sat under a traditional Mongolian tent with Prime Minister Sukhbaatar Batbold and other officials as they watched performances in traditional dance and throat singing performances.

He tried his hand at using a traditional bow and arrow and watched a wrestling competition. As he presented an award to the hefty winner, Biden struck a wrestling pose, eliciting laughter. Biden was also presented with a Mongolian horse, which he named “Celtic’’ in remembrance of his Irish roots, though the horse bucked as the vice president tried to get near.

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