Washington—Massachusetts bans businesses—but not unions—from making political contributions. Now, the Goldwater Institute is asking the U.S. Supreme Court to address this unfair double standard and level the campaign-finance playing field.
In Massachusetts, for-profit businesses cannot give money to political candidates, committees, and parties at all—not directly, and not indirectly through a political action committee. But unions—including unions from outside the state—can give up to $15,000 to a single candidate and can also create political action committees to give even more. That makes Massachusetts one of six states that ban businesses—but not unions—from giving to parties, committees, and candidates.
Today, the Goldwater Institute filed a petition for certiorari in the case of 1A Auto v. Sullivan, asking the U.S. Supreme Court to hear the case and strike down Massachusetts’ unbalanced campaign-finance scheme for violating the First Amendment and the Equal Protection Clause of the Fourteenth Amendment. The case began in 2015, when the Goldwater Institute teamed up with Massachusetts Fiscal Alliance founder Rick Green and board member Mike Kane to file a lawsuit challenging the scheme. This past September, the Massachusetts Supreme Judicial Court upheld the law.
“We cannot stand for discrimination in our state’s campaign finance law. The Massachusetts Supreme Judicial Court had an opportunity to level the playing field and require the Commonwealth to treat all parties the same, but it failed to do so,” commented Kane. “We’re appealing to the U.S. Supreme Court. We’re hoping they will be more amenable and make it clear that the country’s most lopsided state campaign finance law is unconstitutional once and for all. Massachusetts voters cannot endure another tainted election.”
“This past September’s ruling was a missed opportunity for advocates of campaign finance reform,” said Paul Diego Craney, spokesman and board member of the Massachusetts Fiscal Alliance. “Employers and unions are two sides of the same coin, and they should be treated as such. It’s a fundamental issue of fairness, and the time to bring equity to the situation is now.”
This is not the first time the Goldwater Institute has challenged an unfair campaign finance advantage in court. Until 2016, Kentucky had a similar ban on employer contributions, but a federal district court ruled it unconstitutional after the Goldwater Institute brought a lawsuit against it.
“For too long, Massachusetts and other states have used campaign-finance rules to tilt the political playing field to favor some groups and ideas over others. And, unfortunately, courts have mostly let them get away with it,” said Goldwater Institute Senior Attorney Jacob Huebert. “We’re asking the Supreme Court to take this case to end this unfairness and make sure states respect everyone’s equal right to participate in politics.”
Read more about 1A Auto v. Sullivan here.