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A Project of The Annenberg Public Policy Center

Service Employees International Union (SEIU)


Political leanings: Democratic/Liberal

Spending target: $44 million


SEIU represents 2.2 million workers, mostly in three service areas: health care, government and property management (building security and maintenance). It has been politically active on the national level in health care, immigration and workplace safety, among other issues.

It is one of the most powerful groups in Washington. SEIU COPE, the union’s political action committee, has raised $40 million in 2009-2010 as of early August — more than any other federal PAC, according to the Center for Responsive Politics. It spent $70 million in 2008, more than any non-party PAC.

In the current campaign cycle, the group spent $2.6 million on behalf of Bill Halter’s unsuccessful campaign to defeat Sen. Blanche Lincoln of Arkansas in the Democratic primary. It also spent $1.7 million in a losing cause for Martha Coakley, who lost a special election for U.S. Senate in Massachusetts to Scott Brown.

In the general election, Jon Youngdahl, the group’s national political director, told The Hill, a Capitol Hill newspaper, that SEIU COPE will spend at least $44 million and will focus on protecting vulnerable incumbents who voted for the health care bill. The Wall Street Journal reported that the $44-million budget represents a 26 percent increase over what the union spent in 2006, the most recent previous non-presidential election cycle. The SEIU agreed to coordinate its 2010 political spending with the AFL-CIO for a combined effort of nearly $100 million, according to Huffington Post political reporter Sam Stein.