Protesters have finally left the Wisconsin capitol, but estimates are coming in as to the cost of that occupation. We’re learning now it could cost as much as $7.5 million to clean up and repair the damage they have done to the building. Most of that, $6 million, is to restore the marble inside the building; another $1 million to do the same to the outside. As one commentator has noted,

Imagine how many teacher positions, textbooks, and new computers the state could buy with $7.5 million. … Remember when attendants at President Obama’s Inauguration Ceremony trashed the National Mall? But 9.12 tea party protesters along with attendants at Glenn Beck’s 8.28 Restoring Honor event left the National Mall squeaky clean?

That has something to do with respect for the country and for property. The current protesters, their protests notwithstanding, seem to lack respect not only for public buildings, but for the proper functioning of the government.

And while these rank-and-file union members take time off from work to declare their solidarity, I think it might be instructive to look at their leaders, and the benefits they gain from being in leadership. A new study by The Center for Public Integrity shows where a lot of those union dues are going.

The study identifies the ten largest unions in the country, whether private or public. It then details the salaries paid to the leadership and how the money is being spent on political activity. Here’s a summary:

  • The largest union is the National Education Association [NEA] with 3.2 million members. Its president receives in salary and benefits $397,000 per year. The NEA spent $3.7 million on political activity for the 2010 elections, with 98% of that money going to Democrats.
  • The Service Employees International Union [SEIU] comes in second with a membership of 1.8 million. Its past president, Andy Stern, who is a close confidant of President Obama, received slightly over $300,000 in 2009, then got a 5% raise the next year before he left the post. Nine other SEIU leaders receive more than $200,000 per year. Over the past two years, the SEIU gave $2 million to Democratic candidates and $8,500 to Republicans. Notice the difference?
  • Third on the list is the American Federation of State, County, and Municipal Employees [AFSCME], which is one of the fastest growing unions in the nation. Its president was paid $479,000 in 2009; ten others receive more than $200,000. Political donations in the past two years total $2.3 million for Democrats and $13,000 for Republicans.

I could go on, but if you are interested, check out the article at http://www.publicintegrity.org/articles/entry/2964/.

Meanwhile, don’t tell anyone, but Ohio is poised to pass a similar law as the one proposed in Wisconsin, and it’s occurring without legislators leaving the state or massive occupation of government buildings. In other words, representative government is at work in Ohio. Elections do have consequences.