Massfiscal Alliance, looking out for you.

February 25, 2015

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Early this morning, the Goldwater Institute filed a lawsuit seeking equal protection in state campaign finance law. Both plaintiffs in the lawsuit have connections to Massachusetts Fiscal Alliance. 1A Auto, a family-owned auto parts retailer in Pepperell, is run by Rick Green, who is also the chairman of our board of directors. Mike Kane, whose Ashland self-storage business is also part of the suit, serves on our board as well.

Massachusetts Fiscal Alliance made a public statement this morning contending that current state campaign finance regulations don’t guarantee equal protection under the law. As many on both sides of the aisle have noted, something is wrong when unions can donate to one candidate up to $15,000, while individuals are limited to $1,000 and businesses are forbidden to donate anything at all.

Currently, six states allow unlimited contributions from businesses and unions, 16 states and the federal government prohibits direct contributions from both but permit business and labor PACs, and 20 states allow equally limited contributions. Massachusetts, however, is one of seven states that prohibit businesses, but not unions, from making direct campaign donations to candidates, PACs, and parties. Under state law, businesses are even prohibited from organizing a PAC that contributes to candidates, which are permitted at the federal level.

In 1988, special rules implemented by the Office of Campaign and Political Finance allowed unions to contribute as much as $15,000 to state candidates. As of 2015, the limit for individuals stands at $1,000, with corporate donations expressly forbidden. In addition, after unions have donated up to $15,000 to a campaign, their PACs can continue to contribute up to the ordinary limits. Business PACs are banned all together.

In 2013, then State Representative Marty Walsh’s mayoral campaign received more than $500,000 in campaign contributions from over 100 unions across the country, just in money donated in excess of the individual limit. Numerous legislative and statewide candidates running last fall, also took union donations above the individual limit.

Legislative efforts to close this “union loophole,” despite garnering support from members of both parties, have thus far been stymied. Through this lawsuit, the plaintiffs, and the Goldwater Institute are asking the Massachusetts courts to, at a minimum, apply the same campaign finance limitations to unions and businesses.

While state campaign finance law creates an uneven playing field, the Citizens United decision allows individuals, corporations, and unions the same right to make independent expenditures. In short, Massachusetts law still privileges some people’s constitutional rights to free expression over those of others, and this lawsuit begins the process of righting that wrong.

As this case continues to gain traction in the press and hopefully be heard in the judicial system, we will continue to keep you updated on its progress. If you would like to help fund us and help us continue our work, please click here.

Massachusetts Fiscal Alliance · United States

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