MA ruling on corporate donations is a missed opportunity

Nation’s worst campaign finance law should go to Supreme Court

THE RECENT DECISION by the Massachusetts Supreme Judicial Court regarding corporate campaign contributions was a missed opportunity by the state’s highest court to eliminate the country’s most unfair campaign finance law. Instead of closing the union loophole, which gives an unfair advantage to unions over individuals and employers, they ruled that discrimination is constitutional.

They upheld the ban on corporate donations to political candidates, while at the same time allowing for the union loophole to continue. The loophole allows for unions, including out-of-state unions, to be able to donate up to $15,000 to a candidate, while individuals can only give $1,000 and employers cannot give anything at all. Campaign finance law should be clear and fair – the union loophole is anything but these things.

Even if you feel that employers should not have a voice and should not be permitted to donate directly to candidates for public office, you cannot argue that unions should have an outsized political voice under the current system. They are able to crowd out individual donors with their exorbitantly high contribution limit, and completely drown out the voice of employers that are barred from the process entirely.

The result of the SJC’s decision is not just disappointing, but could be just unfair enough for the US Supreme Court to look at the case and change campaign finance law across the country. If the country’s highest court examines the facts, with a national audience, it will be an embarrassing moment, not just for the judges at the SJC but all those who defended the union loophole along the way.

Massachusetts is one of only six states that prohibit employers—but not unions or other groups—from contributing to political parties, committees, or candidates. Of the six, Massachusetts is the worst for how employers are treated compared to unions. The US Supreme Court famously, and rightly, decided the Citizens United case, which gives an equal voice for individuals, unions, and employers so long as they are not coordinating with the candidates.

The Supreme Court has yet to take up a case that deals with direct contributions to candidates in a post-Citizens United world, and the union loophole could be the perfect case for the Supreme Court to finally rule on how individuals, unions, and employers should be treated on the matter of direct contributions.

Meet the Author

Paul D. Craney

Board Member & Spokesman, Massachusetts Fiscal Alliance
The SJC’s decision has brought national attention to the country’s worst campaign finance law. The US Supreme Court has an opportunity to bring fairness and equality back to Massachusetts campaign finance laws. The plaintiffs in the case are preparing to launch an appeal, and we eagerly look forward to what the court has to say.

Paul Diego Craney is the spokesperson for and board member of the Massachusetts Fiscal Alliance. Follow him on Twitter @PaulDiegoCraney.