Tallying Political Donations from Federal Employees and Unions

Federal employee unions are generally supportive of Democrats. Federal employees donating in the 2016 election cycle followed suit. Here is a breakdown from agencies with significant donations.

Relatively few federal employees make donations to political campaigns. In FedSmith surveys, a majority of those responding normally indicate that they are independent rather than aligned with any political party.

How have federal employee unions and federal employees that do donate to political campaigns spent their money? All of the financial information below is provided by the Center for Responsive Politics.

The data were compiled based on information released by the Federal Election Commission on October 28, 2016.

Political Donations from Federal Unions and Federal Interest Groups

Federal employee unions are usually thought of as providing support and favorable publicity for Democrats and criticizing Republicans. The actual dollar amounts spent for each political party generally support this conclusion. The chart below shows how federal employee unions and organizations, including Postal Service organizations, donated money during the 2016 election cycle.

Union Total Democrats Republicans Outside Spending Groups
National AFGE Headquarters $2,293,036 0 0 $2,293,036
American Federation of Govt Employees $1,945,539 91.6% 8.4% $809,118
National Rural Letter Carriers Association  $435,000  59.7%  40.3%  $0
National Treasury Employees Union  $409,932  95.9%  4.1%  $0
National Association of Postal Supervisors  $311,250  93.3%  6.7%  $0
Federal Aviation Admin Managers Association  $284,500  27.4%  72.6%  $0
National Postal Mail Handlers Union  $234,000  92.5%  7.5%  $0
National Weather Service Employees Org.  $64,500  47.4% 25.6%  $0
National Association of Postmasters  $100,580  78.9%  21.1%  $0
NARFE-PAC  $539,250 78.5%  21.5%  $0

Political Donations from Federal Employees

The largest total donations were from State Department employees where Hillary Clinton previously served as Secretary of State. More than 94% of donations from employees in this agency went to Democrats. The smallest amount was from the Department of Energy, but 93.7% went to Democrats. The Department of Labor had the greatest percentage of donations going to Democrats. 98.8% of these donations were to Democratic party candidates.

Agencies likely to benefit from a Trump administration include the Department of Defense, Homeland Security and Department of Veterans Affairs. 65% of Defense contributions went to Democrats, the lowest percentage among major agencies. 75% of Homeland Security donations went to Democrats.

In the Department of Justice, the agency responsible for investigating the Clinton email scandal, 91.6% of donations went to Democrats. $346,125 was donated to Mrs. Clinton from the Justice Department.

Agency Total Contributions Democrats Republicans Other to Outside Groups
Dept. of State $999,502 94.3% 5.3% $2700
House of Representatives $728,482 69% 30.9% $1750
Postal Service $644,594 68.3% 29.9% $6414
Health & Human Services $630,957 94.8% 5.0% $250
Veterans Affairs $549,941 78.7% 20.9% $462
U.S. Senate $561,476 77.8% 20.8% $0
Dept. of Justice $479,083 91.6% 8.4% $5500
Dept. of Agriculture $368,426 87.2% 11.9% $740
Dept. of Energy $313,046 93.7% 6.0%  $375
Dept. of Labor $286,023  98.8% 1.2%  $6300
Dept. of Defense


 65% 32%  $10,627
Homeland Security


75% 23% $575
Dept. of Education


96% 2% $1200

Totals for Defense, Homeland Security and Department of Education are for candidates in the 2016 election cycle. Other agencies reflect totals for “Top Contributors to Federal Candidates, Parties, and Outside Groups”. All data is from the Center for Responsive Politics.

Implications for Agencies Under a Trump Administration

Will the overwhelming support for Democrats in the election make any difference with Republicans controlling both Houses of Congress and the White House?

In part, Republican support for particular agencies and programs, such as Defense and Veterans Affairs, is reflected in the split of donations. Employees generally provided less support for Democrats from these agencies. In part, that may be because there was already support from Republicans to grow these agencies.

On the other hand, agencies such as the Department of Education or Department of Energy have been criticized or received negative comments from Donald Trump or surrogates during the presidential campaign. Financial support for at least some of the programs in these agencies may be cut under the new administration. That is unlikely to be the result of political preferences of employees in these agencies but reflects of a philosophical difference in different administrations.

About the Author

Ralph Smith has several decades of experience working with federal human resources issues. He has written extensively on a full range of human resources topics in books and newsletters and is a co-founder of two companies and several newsletters on federal human resources. Follow Ralph on Twitter: @RalphSmith47