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IAFF Freezes Federal FIREPAC Contributions

April 26, 2011 – Message from IAFF General President Harold Schaitberger:

Brothers and Sisters,

The International Association of Fire Fighters has grown into a political powerhouse in the Nation’s Capitol and in state houses, county and city halls across the country.

Over the past decade, the symbolism of our profession and the image of our fire fighters and paramedics decked out in this union’s trademark gold and black have become one of the most sought after endorsements in politics at every level. We have grown what was a modest federal Political Action Committee (PAC) into one of the top federal PACs in the nation.

Last election cycle, FIREPAC was in the top 1.1 percent of the more than 7,100 federally registered PACs in terms of dollars raised and was the 10th largest PAC in candidate contributions. It was also one of the most bi-partisan PACs.

In total, we spent close to $15 million in the last election cycle on behalf of federal candidates and both political parties, helping to elect those who support us and defeat those who oppose us.

But the attacks launched at our members since the November 2010 elections have changed the landscape.

Extreme right-wing conservative and so-called Tea Party politicians are coming after fire fighters, paramedics and all public workers with a vengeance across the United States. They are attempting to take away basic American rights like collective bargaining and your right to negotiate for a good quality of life for your families. They are working to eliminate your pensions and retirement security. They want to silence your voice by gagging you with legislation they call Paycheck Protection. They are taking away the long-held right of dues deductions from paychecks to try to weaken the finances of our union. They want to hurt all unions and drive down wages and benefits with Right-to-Work laws.

Not only are extremist Republicans trying to destroy us -- too few Democrats are standing up and fighting for us.

Over the past two years, politicians from both parties have failed to address our issues in Washington, DC. Now, anti-labor members of Congress and their allies are championing measures that would undermine pension security, tax employer-sponsored health benefits, force newly hired fire fighters into Social Security and attack federal fire fighters. And with no pro-fire fighter legislation likely to be advanced in the 112th Congress – it’s time to take a stand.

With the survival of our union and the ability to preserve and protect the rights, wages and benefits our members deserve in jeopardy in the states, we have re-evaluated how to get the best results for our political dollars.

With the full support of our union’s Executive Board, we are turning off the spigot to federal candidates and federal parties, party committees and the super PACs that are created to support them.

Historically, FIREPAC has made most of its contributions to federal candidates. But it’s time to send a clear message to all politicians at every level that the support of this IAFF is not automatic. It must be earned.

The reputation of our members and our profession in the political arena must not be taken for granted. Our support comes with consequences for those who are working to kill this union, and we will hold accountable those supposed friends who don’t stand up for us.

Now more than ever, as our adversaries speak and act with a concerted, focused message, we need our friends to respond with similar strength and leadership to beat back the multi-faceted, well-organized assaults the right has launched at us – funded by anti-labor extremists like the multi-billionaire Koch brothers. And while we are fighting for our very survival, our friends aren’t doing enough to fight back -- they don’t have our backs.

Re-focusing our work on the states will serve to bolster the “Fighting Back” campaign we have initiated. “Fighting Back” is a coordinated effort with our state and local affiliates involving various IAFF Divisions: Communications and Media, Government and Political Affairs, Safety and Health, Technical Assistance, GIS, EMS and Education.

Through this campaign, we have engaged in an internal and external effort to educate our members and the public on these misguided attacks – through television, newspaper, Internet and social media -- to literally fight back with everything we have. For a complete explanation of the “Fighting Back” campaign, click here

We know we have legislative fights, ballot measures and re-call elections that will require us to be on the offensive at the state and local level through this fall. I expect this strategic decision to focus our resources on state and local efforts, and the freezing of federal contributions, to last as long as the fights in the states remain at such a high level and until we see some real results and leadership from those in Washington, DC on our members’ behalf.

Sticking together and having each other’s backs is part of this great profession we call “the job.” It’s the core principle of our political work. And sticking to it is what will ensure that we ultimately prevail in the fights we face across America today.

In Solidarity,

Harold Schaitberger


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