Campaign finance regulator closes ‘union loophole’

New limit on candidate contributions is $1,000

STATE HOUSE NEWS SERVICE

UNIONS AND NON-PROFITS will be limited to contributing $1,000 a year to a candidate for public office starting next month after the Office of Campaign and Political Finance submitted a new rule Thursday closing the controversial “union loophole” in state regulation.

The rule holds unions to the same contribution limits applied to individual donors, wiping away the past practice of allowing labor groups to contribute up to $15,000 before they must register as a political action committee, even if the whole sum was given to just one candidate.

Starting May 31, contribution limits for unions will be set at $1,000 to a candidate, $500 to a political action committee, and $5,000 to a political party. Any union or non-profit that exceeds the $15,000 threshold will have to register as a PAC, though contributions to super PACs will not count toward that trigger.

Campaign finance regulators began revisiting the current rules at the request of Common Cause after the Supreme Judicial Court last year questioned the legal strength of the so-called “union loophole” in a ruling against the Massachusetts Fiscal Alliance, which upheld the state’s ban on corporate political donations. The final rule was expected by May 1, but the agency took a little extra time before submitting it to the Secretary of State’s office on Thursday. It won’t take effect until it’s published on May 31.

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State House News Service
Paul Craney, a spokesman for the Massachusetts Fiscal Alliance, said his organization has been fighting since 2013 to eliminate the loophole, which he says unfairly advantages unions over businesses in the political process.

“We are pleased to see it reduced but disappointed it wasn’t eliminated altogether,” Craney said in a statement.