From The New York Times
As Republican leaders in Washington grappled after the
election with their failure to unseat President Obama, Dick DeVos, one of
Michigan’s wealthiest men, began dialing up state lawmakers in Lansing.
Although Mr. Obama won Michigan handily, Republicans
had kept control of the Legislature. A union-backed ballot measure to enshrine
collective bargaining rights in the State Constitution was defeated, thanks to
an aggressive campaign against it that was financed in part by $2 million of
DeVos family money.
The time had come, Mr. DeVos told Republican
lawmakers, for the bold stroke they were considering: a law banning requirements
that workers pay union dues or fees, in the state where the modern American
labor movement was born. If the lawmakers later found themselves facing recalls
or tough re-election fights, Mr. DeVos told them, he would be there to help.
“That was when I started to say, you know what, this
thing could happen,” Mr. DeVos said on Friday. “These people really are serious
lawmakers and Gov. Rick
, who is also a Republican, rapidly approved the legislation and
delivered a body blow to the labor movement.
Yet much of the groundwork for the quick victory was
laid months and years before by a loose network of donors, strategists and
conservative political groups that has sought to win Republican control of
legislatures around the country and limit unions’ political power. Their bet:
that money invested in local elections would yield concrete policy victories
that could not be had in Washington.
Where the big-spending conservative groups active in
this year’s presidential race had little to show for their millions of dollars,
the state efforts were strikingly successful. While Mr. Obama was winning
onetime red states like Virginia and swing states like Michigan and Ohio,
Republicans made large gains in state offices in many of the same battlegrounds.
Starting next year, Republicans will have one-party control in almost half of
the state capitals in the country.