This is a rush transcript from "Special Report," September 1, 2011. This copy may not be in its final form and may be updated.
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RICHARD TRUMKA, AFL-CIO, PRESIDENT: We have always funded or always participated in elections down the ballot. We will continue to do that. The 'super PAC' is to allow us to talk to workers beyond our members so that we can reach out to workers everywhere and bring them into the fold.
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CHRIS WALLACE, ANCHOR: Rich Trumka, the head of the AFL-CIO, announcing big labor's new plan to push its candidates and causes in the 2012 election. We're back now with our panel. So Mara, the Obama administration has taken a really strong pro-union tilt in recent weeks and months. The National Labor Relations Board with its Democratic, Obama-appointed majority went after Boeing for wanting to build a plant in right to work South Carolina. Now, the NLRB says employers must post notices of workers' rights in all work places, their rights to organize, even though there hasn't been any case. They are really deciding it on their own.
How big a role do you see labor playing in 2012 both at the presidential level and at the state level?
MARA LIASSON, NATIONAL PUBLIC RADIO: Well, I think labor will play a really big role. They're affected by Citizens United, just like corporations are. They can now spend unlimited donations anonymously, although they won't be so anonymous.
I think the interesting thing is, despite the things you mentioned, labor is unhappy with the president, and has really -- Rich Trumka put them on notice about the speech next week. He really wants the president to come up with something big and bold, lots of infrastructure money. And they have been unhappy with a lot of what the president has done, despite some pro-union decisions.
So it will be interesting to see if labor can muster not just the money that they are now allowed to spend freely, but the ground troops and the kind of grassroots energy that they have provided for Democrats in the past.
WALLACE: Charles, same question, and just add to it the fact that Rich Trumka announced that the AFL-CIO is planning to set up a 'super PAC', which will allow it to raise much more money and the impact, therefore, it will have on elections at all levels.
CHARLES KRAUTHAMMER, SYNDICATED COLUMNIST: Well it's at all levels that is really important here, because I think the labor wants to use the 'super PAC' to help them particularly at the state level. They really understand that the threat to their movement is happening at the state level. For example, in Wisconsin, everybody looked at the change and negotiation powers that the public sector unions had.
But the provision that was the most deadly and that labor really hates is the fact that in Wisconsin as of now, the government will no longer collect the dues of union workers, the government workers. When that happened in Indiana, the government workers union melted away. It lost about nine out of every 10 of its members. If that happens on a mass scale at the state level, these unions are gonna disappear. So, they want to allocate the money now, a lot of it, at the state level where the threat to their actual continued existence is really at stake.
WALLACE: You know, let's broaden it from labor to this whole question, A.B., about the 'super PACs' in general and the role that they are going to play. They are supposed to be independent, but, you know, in the case of the Democrats, you've got Bill Burton, who is a top campaign official, then the deputy press secretary is running this big new democratic pro-Obama 'super PAC' called Priorities USA. Of course, Karl Rove and Ed Gillespie in charge of Crossroads, a big Republican. So, how independent are these independent 'super PACs'?
A.B. STODDARD, ASSOCIATE EDITOR, THE HILL: They are not independent. The ones, all the 2012 candidates, all the top tier ones have their own 'super PACs'. They are staffed by former aides. They're a shadow campaign. They will play a large role. We don't know how decisive they will be for one candidate or another but they will change the face of the 2012 election. And it is not -- they are also, the 501c4's, that collect secret money, are supposed to be non-political social welfare groups. They're supposed to spend more than 50 percent of their money educating the public or doing something philanthropic or something, but not political. And they're all political. But they are able in this tax code to operate the way that they do. And they are going to change the entire system unless there is another Supreme Court decision.
But as for labor I would quickly say they -- I don't think a 'super PAC' for labor is necessarily good news for the president or congressional Democrats. I agree with Charles. They are going to move -- Obama is come lately on labor-friendly initiatives. They are very disappointed in him. And I think they are really gonna take their matter to the local level, and national Democrats be damned.
WALLACE: Yeah, I mean it's interesting because one of the reasons Trumka said he is creating this 'super PAC' is because basically said before we gave the money to the Democrats, the election ended. Our role ended. Now we are going to build up our own separate, independent institution, and not just be a wing of the Democratic Party.
In the minute we've got left, Mara, the result of all of this is we're going to see even more money -
LIASSON: No doubt about that.
WALLACE: A tremendous amount more money. Yes, one is that true? And two, is that necessarily a bad thing?
LIASSON: Well, first of all, we are gonna see a tremendous amount more money. Whether it's a bad thing or not, I think it's just too soon to tell.
I think one thing that we will see is that there will be much more corporate money than there will be labor and Democratic money. Just the resources on the Republican side, the pool they have to fish in to raise donations is just so much bigger. So Republicans wanted for a long time to level the playing field against labor, and the Democrats I think they succeeded, and more so.
WALLACE: That's it for the panel, but stay tuned to see what happens when Dick Cheney gets a question he doesn't like.
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