Jun 13, 2021 - Politics & Policy

Police union PACs launch text attacks on The Squad

Three-fourths of The Squad are seen listening during a congressional hearing.

Reps. Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez (D-N.Y.) , Ayanna Pressley (D-Mass.) and Rashida Tlaib (D-Mich.), from left, listen during a congressional hearing. Photo: Chip Somodevilla/Getty Images

A national police union is spending hundreds of thousands of dollars attacking The Squad, records show.

Why it matters: The $510,000 in spending by two PACs associated with the International Union of Police Associations is the largest independent political expenditure of the 2022 cycle to date. It appears geared less toward unseating any of the members and more toward raising money for the groups themselves.

What's happening: Both groups — Law Enforcement for a Safer America PAC and Honoring American Law Enforcement PAC — are affiliated with the International Union of Police Associations.

  • The Florida-based IUPA represents about 20,000 law enforcement professionals.
  • Together, the two PACs reported spending $127,500 attacking each of the four House Democrats in the progressive "Squad": Reps. Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez of New York, Ilhan Omar of Minnesota, Ayanna Pressley of Massachusetts and Rashida Tlaib of Michigan.
  • That's more than any independent political group has reported, so far, on a single independent expenditure in a 2022 midterm race.
  • The actual content of the text messages was not immediately clear. Neither PAC responded to requests from Axios for comment.

Between the lines: None of the four members the PACs are targeting is particularly vulnerable, suggesting the goal of the expenditures is, at least, partly to raise more money for the PACs themselves.

  • The two PACs spent nearly $18 million during the 2020 cycle. But the vast majority went toward fundraising. They spent just over 5% on political activity, much of which appears to have also asked for additional donations.
  • The IUPA union also spends the vast majority of its money on fundraising, with very little going toward grants or union representation and organizing.
  • The union and its PACs have been scrutinized over allegedly misleading fundraising practices, frequently involving telemarketing calls.

The big picture: Ocasio-Cortez, Omar, Pressley and Tlaib are lightning rods for conservatives — and potent fundraising draws as a result.

  • Policing and public safety are at the forefront of the conservative political consciousness.
  • That can be lucrative for groups looking to rake in small-dollar donations from contributors not suspecting their money will be used largely to perpetuate an organization — rather than finance attacks or candidates against its opponents.
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