Lawsuit will seek equal protection for all those seeking to make their voices heard.
Boston, MA: The Massachusetts Fiscal Alliance, a nonpartisan, nonprofit advocacy group dedicated to promoting better government and right-of-center fiscal and economic policy solutions, today expressed support for the Goldwater Institute's efforts to seek equal protection in state campaign finance law.
"Current state campaign finance regulations don’t guarantee equal protection under the law,” said Paul Craney, the group’s executive director. “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. Under state law, businesses are even prohibited from organizing a PAC that contributes to candidates, which are permitted at the federal level.”
In 2013, then-Rep. 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 statewide candidates running last fall, also took union donations beyond the individual limit.
"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,” Craney concluded.
Both plaintiffs in the lawsuit have connections to the Massachusetts Fiscal Alliance. 1A Auto Inc., a family-owned auto parts retailer in Pepperell, is run by Rick Green, who is also the chairman of MassFiscal's board of directors. Mike Kane, whose Ashland business, 126 Self Storage Inc., is also part of the suit, serves on MassFiscal's board as well. Legislative efforts to fix the loophole, despite garnering support from members of both parties, have thus far been stymied.
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.
In 1988, special rules implemented by OCPF (not legislated) 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. Through this lawsuit, the Goldwater Institute is asking the Massachusetts courts to, at a minimum, apply the same campaign finance limitations to unions and businesses.