On Wednesday, December 7, hearings began at Suffolk Superior Court in the lawsuit filed by businesses owned by MassFiscal board members Rick Green and Mike Kane to close the so-called union loophole in Massachusetts campaign finance law. The loophole bans political contributions from businesses while allowing 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.
This week, Beacon Hill power brokers announced a few changes to the legislative playbook. One of their proposals stood out to us: consolidated amendments will now require a roll call vote.
Requiring roll calls for consolidated amendments can't actually be considered a reform, any more than pressing a band aid over a gushing artery can be considered first aid.
Consolidating amendments is a tool Speaker DeLeo uses more than any Speaker before him. Hundreds of amendments are rounded up into a single omnibus package and are rammed through the chamber all at once, often on a voice vote. Holding anyone accountable for the success or failure of any one amendment becomes nearly impossible. Even with roll call votes, these consolidated amendments make it impossible for citizens or even legislators to follow what’s happening.
In our opinion, the legislature should go cold turkey and ban all consolidated amendments. True transparency will only be achieved if each proposal is considered on its merits. But we’re realists here at MassFiscal, so instead, we suggest adding the following additional requirements:
1. Categorize consolidated amendments. Too often, the bundles contain mixed subject matter.
2. Require separate votes for consolidated amendments. In the past, consolidated amendments have been consolidated. That’s just lazy, and wrong.
3. Implement a two hour review period between the introduction of a consolidated amendment and its discussion on the floor.
These three reforms are reasonable and necessary.
A full debate on the operating rules in the Senate and the House is the first order of business in January, and we'll be watching that debate closely. Fair rules that support open processes are crucial to good lawmaking. We expect to see votes on how to handle consolidated amendments, allowing appropriate time to study legislation, and insisting that all votes taken by legislators are made public. We’ll do our best to pull out the juiciest, most interesting bits to share with you, and you can be sure we'll use our effective advocacy apparatus to let the voters back home know where their legislators stand on fair and open governing.
(BOSTON)—Today, Paul Craney, executive director of MassFiscal Alliance, called on new Democrat State Committee Chairman Gus Bickford to purge the state committee coffers of any funds received from former state Rep. Bradley and employees or associates at his firm, Thornton and Associates. A copy of our letter may be found here.
The Boston Globe reports that a grand jury has been convened to investigate the firm, which is led by Bradley, and its reported illegal funneling of corporate cash to campaign coffers. The Thornton and Associates scheme could be the largest "straw donor” case ever brought nationwide.
Craney said “The Democratic Senatorial Campaign Committee and at least 19 politicians, including unsuccessful presidential candidate Hillary Clinton, Senators Edward Markey and Elizabeth Warren, Representative Kennedy, and Boston Mayor Walsh, have returned or refunded these tainted contributions. The Massachusetts Democratic State Committee must do the same."
Craney said using those contributions for elections, in the knowledge the funds are tainted, strains ethical conduct.
Massachusetts Fiscal Alliance advocates for fiscal responsibility, transparency, and accountability in state government and increased economic opportunity for the people of our Commonwealth.