Employees and political action committees of organizations that make up the big four special interests that own the Democratic Party contributed hundreds of millions of dollars in campaign contributions to the party's federal candidates in 2010.

The top 20 labor unions, for example, gave more than $68 million in 2010, with 94 percent of the total going to Democrats and just 4 percent to Republicans. Most of the total, 88 percent, came from PACs associated with the top 20 unions, while the remaining 12 percent came from individual union members, according to Opensecrets.org.

Similarly, liberal ideological groups, many of which are heavily funded or otherwise closely linked with influential Democratic insiders like George Soros and Drummond Pike, gave more than $33 million to federal candidates in 2010. Not surprisingly, virtually all of that money went to Democrats, according to Opensecrets.org.

But tracking campaign finance is never easy because of weaknesses of the data collection system and thanks to the creativity and regularity with which individuals and organizations across the ideological spectrum find ways in which to circumvent or otherwise compromise disclosure.

The Examiner's commentary section has in recent months focused on a detailed analysis of Federal Election Commission data seeking to uncover as much information as possible about how individuals and organizations associated with Big Labor, Big Green, Big Insiders and Big Attorneys funnel campaign cash and related forms of support and to whom.

The analysis is far from complete, and there will be additional reports and analyses as the research continues. But we've already learned a great deal about the deep involvement of these four special interests not just in funding Democrats, but also in opposing Republicans.

It is all but impossible to determine which of the big four special interests have the most power within the Democratic Party, but nobody questions that class-action trial lawyers from the plaintiffs bar wield tremendous influence on the party's policy deliberations, incumbents and candidates seeking public office at all levels of government.

The Examiner found that more than 2,600 individuals who listed their employer as one of the top 110 plaintiffs bar law firms gave more than $7.23 million in contributions to federal candidates in 2010. More than 96 percent of the total went to Democrats. Independent candidates actually received more contributions from these trial lawyers than did Republicans.

There is another nearly $2.7 million in contributions to federal candidates in 2010 by the American Association for Justice PAC, which represents the class-action lawsuit industry in the nation's capital. Ninety-seven percent of that money went to Democrats and 3 percent to GOPers.

Among the recipients of AAJ contributions were Emily's List, perhaps the quintessential Democratic PAC ($155,000), the National Democratic Redistricting Trust ($100,000), Democratic Attorneys General ($50,000) and varying amounts to at least 25 Democratic state committees.

But even these figures underestimate the amount of money given to Democrats by trial lawyers because not all individuals making contributions list their employer. Thus, an individual trial lawyer who never lists a specific firm as his or her employer would not be counted in the Examiner analysis.

Unions have been a reliable Democratic ally for decades, but a close examination of two of the most politically active, the National Education Association and the American Federation of State, County and Municipal Employees reveals just how reliable.

The NEA, which represents public school teachers across the country, gave a combined total of more than $15.3 million in contributions to federal candidates during the 2010 and 2008 campaign cycles. Democrats received 97 percent of the total, including $1.7 million to Democratic PACs and $3.3 million from the NEA's 527 committee.

The Democratic Governors Association received more than $700,000 from the NEA 527, while the union's PAC made contributions to at least 34 Democratic state committees, with amounts ranging from $5,000 to as much as $350,000 (Ohio).

With AFSCME, the contribution total came to $2.2 million for 2010, with only $6,000, or 0.3 percent, going to Republicans. Three hundred and thirty-nine House and Senate Democrats were recipients, as were three Republicans.

Unions are also fountains of campaign cash for Democratic candidates for state and local offices, according to the Examiner analysis. The 15 unions that gave at least $1 million to Democrats during the 2008 and 2010 campaigns, contributed more than $206 million, with 91 percent going to Democrats, according to the National Institute on Money in State Politics.

Tracking the political influence of Big Insiders like George Soros or John Podesta is all but impossible. According to FEC records, Soros gave nearly $136,000 in individual contributions during the 2010 campaign, while Podesta contributed a mere $4,750.

But those numbers don't begin to measure the total political clout of either Soros or Podesta. With a $5 million total, Soros was the second most generous individual contributor to 527 committees in the 2008 campaign.

Soros has been a founding or supporting funder for a long list of major Democratic activist groups, while Podesta has been specifically focused on building the Center for American Progress as a combination think tank and political communications war room. An example of the latter is CAP's guiding role in the Obama administration's strategy of using regulation to impose programs that failed in Congress such as card check and cap and trade.

Mark Tapscott is editorial page editor of The Washington Examiner.