Court Date Set for Hearing on Union Loophole Case

(BOSTON)—Yesterday, the state Superior Court scheduled a hearing for December 7th in the suit to close the union loophole in state campaign finance law.

Jim Manley, senior attorney for The Goldwater Institute, and Paul Craney, executive director of the Massachusetts Fiscal Alliance, will be available on a conference call at 11 a.m. today.

The Goldwater Institute, a foundation helping with the legal challenge, recently won a preliminary injunction in a companion lawsuit filed in Kentucky. While not directly applicable in Massachusetts, the injunction speaks to the inherent unfairness of a corporate contribution ban. A copy of the Kentucky lawsuit and call-in instructions are available upon request.

The lawsuit, filed in 2015 by businesses owned by MassFiscal board members Rick Green and Mike Kane, seeks to close the union loophole in Massachusetts campaign finance law. The loophole bans political contributions from businesses while allowing unions, including out of state unions, to contribute up to $15,000 to a single candidate. Unions, under current law, may also contribute via Political Action Committees, while PACs supported by businesses are prohibited. Individuals are permitted to donate up to $1,000 to a single candidate. Massachusetts is one of only six states with campaign finance laws that advantage unions.

"With Boston City Hall at the center of a maelstrom of union extortion charges and a federal corruption probe, the environment has never been better to right this wrong," executive director of MassFiscal Paul D. Craney said. "The political process in Massachusetts is rigged to benefit union interests over the interests of everyone else."

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In light of Walsh allegations, Rick Green tells Legislature: “Massachusetts unfair election law leaves ground fertile for corruption. Change it now.”

(Boston, Mass)—Massachusetts businessman Rick Green today called on the legislature to close the union loophole in state campaign finance law, saying that the investigations of Boston City Hall are unsurprising in light of the sheer volume of cash flowing from union coffers into Mayor Martin Walsh’s campaign war chest.

“The legislature can and must act now to level the playing field when it comes to support for political campaigns,” Green said. The companies owned by Green, along with Mike Kane of Ashland, has filed a federal lawsuit aimed at rectifying the disparity. He says that while he is optimistic on the lawsuit’s chances, the legislature can make the fix quicker.

Massachusetts is one of just six states that prohibit businesses from contributing to political campaigns, parties, and candidates, while allowing unions, including out of state unions, to contribute as much as $15,000. Unions are also allowed to contribute via PACs, yet business-directed PACs are banned from participating. Individuals are limited to $1,000 per year.

“The limits make union voices the loudest and the strongest of any in Massachusetts politics,” Green said.

Walsh received more than $500,000 from union donations over the individual limit of $500 at the time.

Massachusetts Fiscal Alliance advocates for fiscal responsibility, transparency, and accountability in state government and increased economic opportunity for the people of our Commonwealth.


Best and Worst of the House Budget Amendments

The Mass. Fiscal Alliance staff is having a few laughs as we analyze the budget amendment proposals filed last week. Below is our breakdown:  

Worst of the Worst:

First-term State Rep. Brendan Crighton of Lynn proposed sending $75,000 to the Mass. Bicycle Coalition for a study on the return on investment of developing bicycle connectivity to transit facilities in gateway cities. That's a lot of words with a lot of syllables and a lot of cash for a study which might be subtitled, "Can I take my bike on the bus?"

Another wordy but no more worthy amendment was filed by State Rep. Ellen Story of Amherst: $1 million to establish a statewide municipal dispute resolution grant program to provide guidance and support to municipalities to manage and prevent conflict over local regional issues. Marriage counseling for cities and towns... What have we come to?

State Rep. Tricia Farley-Bouvier of Pittsfield is asking for taxpayer money, $50,000 to be exact, for what is described as “Phase 2 of the Berkshire Carousel Project." What is the Berkshire Carousel Project? We were asking that question too. According to their website, "it's a wooden carousel that is both a work of art and a wonderful form of family fun and entertainment. It will be a permanent display of the creative endeavors of the residents of Berkshire County involved in its creation.” The next time you are in Pittsfield, please make sure to remember that their lawmaker is asking taxpayers to fund a wooden carousel.

Some of the better ideas:

State Rep. Josh Cutler (D-Duxbury) filed to lower the LLC filing fee to $250 for employers with 5 or fewer employees. Cutler scores 20% on our Legislative Scorecard. But as they say, a journey of a thousand miles begins with a single step. Let's hope Cutler's stepping toward more taxpayer-friendly voting behavior in the future.

Both Brad Jones (R-North Reading) and Geoff Diehl (R-Whitman) filed amendments aimed at preventing big cash payouts for unused sick time for state employees. We also like Jones' proposal requiring half of any excess state revenue flows to local governments.

The moral of the story: yes, the vast majority of the 1307 budget amendments were lumps of coal, but gems are among them, when you search long enough.





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