The independent expenditure system set up under the Supreme Court’s Citizens United ruling that allows for unlimited campaign spending from secretive sources has very thin disclosure standards. Still, there are a few pieces of data that we can work with to come up with information about the so-called “Super” PACs that exploit the independent expenditure system.
Let’s take the recent phone bank operations of a Super PAC called Concerned American Voters in Michigan.
A couple of days ago, the Super PAC reported to the Federal Election Commission a $250 payment to a particular restaurant for lunch for phone bank workers being paid to making calls promoting Republican congressional candidate Kerry Bentivolio. The restaurant that sold the lunch happens to have a menu with prices online. So, if we take the most expensive lunch available from the particular restaurant, we can calculate the minimum staff size for the phone bank.
Of course, it’s more likely the Super PAC is pinching pennies, and didn’t buy the most expensive sandwich plus the most expensive drink, plus the biggest side item, plus desert for those phone bank workers. But, let’s say it did. That comes to, at smallest, 27 meals for 27 workers.
We also know, because of another report to the FEC from Concerned American Voters, that the combined salary the Super PAC for one session of four days’ work for that particular phone bank was $3469.65.
So, even if those four days of work took place with just four hours per day, then Concerned American Voters would have been paying your workers only around $8.00 an hour, just a few coins above the Michigan state minimum wage of $7.40 per hour. It’s certainly not a living wage… and that’s not taking into account that $755.50 of this $3469.65 was for “full time” staff. That would make the wages of the part time staff even lower, given that the full time staff was certainly being paid for more than four hours of work per day. And remember, we’re making the assumption that Concerned American Voters spent a maximum possible amount of money for each lunch, leading to indications of a smaller number of workers. It’s more likely that the number of workers was higher than 27, making the wages even lower.
We also see that there was a one-day total salary payment of $1028.52 for the same phone bank operation, shown in a third FEC report. With 27 workers, that comes out to $38.09 for the day. Do you know anyone who can live on that?
The essential insight gained from this exercise is that the Concerned American Voters Super PAC looks at American workers as a relatively worthless group of people. The economic vision of Concerned American Voters is disturbingly unconcerned with the economic realities Americans are dealing with right now. The Super PAC is operating with the attitude that it will get as much labor from its workers as possible, paying them as little as it can get away with.
That kind of disrespect for working Americans isn’t a quality I’d want to see in the United States Congress. That’s why, I’m hoping that the people of Michigan’s 11th congressional district will vote against Kerry Bentivolio. His association with low wages doesn’t suggest positive things about his economic agenda.