The American Federation of State, County and Municipal Employees (AFSCME), a 1.6 million member public sector union, has taken the lead as the biggest outside campaign spender in the 2010 election cycle, the Wall Street Journal reports.
AFSCME is contributing a combined $87.5 million to support democratic candidates in the upcoming election, it confirmed to CBS News. It now leads prominent conservative groups like the Chamber of Commerce and the Rove-supported American Crossroads in expenditures on the campaign, according to the Journal.
Critics of heavy political expenditures by public-sector unions argue that taxpayers are essentially footing the bill for these contributions, as they come in part out of union dues - which, in turn, come out of government salaries paid for by the state budget.
"Public-sector unions have a guaranteed source of revenue - you and me as taxpayers," Glenn Spencer of the Workforce Freedom Initiative at the Chamber of Commerce acknowledged to the Journal.
The matter of undisclosed campaign contributions has become increasingly contentious in recent weeks, as details have emerged about the enormous contributions being made, often in secret, to support political candidates in tough election races.
Yesterday, the Wall Street Journal reported that Texas home builder Bob Perry $7 million to American Crossroads, the conservative group Karl Rove helped to found, between September and the first half of October.
Democrats have alsothe Chamber of Commerce of taking contributions from foreign donors, a claim that the Chamber .
These unprecedentedly large donations have been made possible in part by a 2010 Supreme Court decision, Citizens United v. Federal Election Commission, which enables corporations and unions to put unlimited funds toward political causes.
The Obama administration vigorously opposed that decision, and has condemned all forms of anonymous donations.
"The president has been crystal clear that third-party groups which spend tens of millions of dollars from anonymous sources are a threat to our democracy," White House spokesman Josh Earnest told the Journal.
Lucy Madison is a political reporter for CBSNews.com. You can read more of her posts here. Follow Hotsheet on Facebook and Twitter.