Electricians union Local 98 gives $200,000 to super PAC

Former Deputy Mayor Rich Lazer (second from right) launches his congressional race at a South Philadelphia playground.

Former Philadelphia Deputy Mayor Rich Lazer (second from right) launches his congressional race at a South Philadelphia playground. (Emma Lee/WHYY)

The powerful electricians union in the Philadelphia region has created a super PAC and set aside $200,000 to support its favored congressional candidate, Rich Lazer who is seeking the Democratic nomination in the newly drawn 5th District.

Individual contributions to congressional candidates are capped at $2,700.

But U.S. Supreme Court decisions — including Citizens United — have spawned the creation of super PACs that can collect and spend unlimited sums, as long as they work independently of candidate committees.

On March 26, a super PAC called “Middle Class PAC” was registered; two days later, the International Brotherhood of Electricians Local 98 donated $200,000 to the committee.

Officials of the PAC haven’t responded to my calls, but when I spoke to union business manager John Dougherty a few weeks ago, he said he expected to help Lazer with a super PAC and made no apologies for it.

“I always want to make sure that the people in the working community have the same tools available as the rich people out there,” Dougherty said.

Lazer is a South Philadelphian running in a district that’s mostly Delaware County, and some Delaware County Democrats are less than pleased to see big union checks helping Lazer, a late entrant to the race.

Several Delaware County candidates have managed to raise more than $200,000 within traditional contribution limits, so the initial super PAC war chest isn’t enough to ensure a huge spending margin for Lazer.

But if more unions come in with big checks, and the heavy-spending electricians union follows up with large contributions, the advantage could swing toward Lazer.

The primary is May 15.

This disclosure: Electricians Union Local 98 represents engineers at WHYY.

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