Filings flesh out opposing sides in immigrant driver’s license fight

Unions back law, while Mass Fiscal Alliance leads opponents

UNIONS AND LIBERAL-LEANING groups are spearheading the campaign to keep in place the state’s new law granting driver’s licenses to immigrants without legal status, while a repeal effort is being led by the conservative-leaning Massachusetts Fiscal Alliance and its founder Rick Green, with support from individual donors. 

The first campaign finance reports shedding light on the late-filed ballot referendum were due to the Office of Campaign and Political Finance Tuesday. So far, the reports show, more money has been raised to uphold the law than to eliminate it. The pro-driver’s license campaign is funded mostly by unions, while the campaign to repeal the new law has attracted support from a greater number of individual donors. 

The repeal effort has just $8,000 left in the bank after early spending to secure a spot on the ballot, while the committee supporting the law has nearly $210,000 in cash on hand. 

The Legislature in June passed a law allowing immigrants without legal status to obtain driver’s licenses, overriding a veto by Republican Gov. Charlie Baker. The law is set to take effect July 1, 2023. However, a group of Republican opponents to the law gathered enough signatures to get a referendum on the November ballot that could overturn the law. 

Fair and Secure Massachusetts, the organization formed to oppose the driver’s license law, has reported raising $57,000 so far. Nearly half that money – $25,000 – was from a single donation by Rick Green, an executive at 1A Auto Parts and former Republican congressional candidate who founded the fiscally conservative advocacy group Mass Fiscal Alliance. The Mass Fiscal Alliance itself contributed around $7,000 of in-kind donations related to printing a ballot question-related mailing. Michael Kane, another Mass Fiscal Alliance leader who owns 126 Self Storage, donated $1,000. 

The Massachusetts Republican Assembly, which represents the right wing of the state GOP, gave $1,500. Otherwise, the campaign is funded mainly from individuals, mostly through small donations. The ballot committee has gotten a total of 253 donations so far, of which 216 were of $100 or less. 

Although Republican gubernatorial candidate Geoff Diehl has been a vocal supporter of the repeal effort and played a lead role in gathering signatures, he has not donated any money to the ballot committee.  

Supporters of the driver’s license law, a committee called Vote YES for Work and Family Mobility, have raised $264,500 so far, entirely from organizations.  

The politically active union SEIU and its offshoots contributed most of it – $224,300. Most other donations involved organizational staff contributing their time toward the campaign. The organizations active in the group include the ACLU of Massachusetts, Jewish Alliance for Law and Social Action, Essex County Community Organization, Massachusetts Immigrant and Refugee Advocacy Coalition, Progressive Massachusetts, and the Merrimack Valley Project. 

Meet the Author

Shira Schoenberg

Reporter, CommonWealth

About Shira Schoenberg

Shira Schoenberg is a reporter at CommonWealth magazine. Shira previously worked for more than seven years at the Springfield Republican/MassLive.com where she covered state politics and elections, covering topics as diverse as the launch of the legal marijuana industry, problems with the state's foster care system and the elections of U.S. Sen. Elizabeth Warren and Gov. Charlie Baker. Shira won the Massachusetts Bar Association's 2018 award for Excellence in Legal Journalism and has had several stories win awards from the New England Newspaper and Press Association. Shira covered the 2012 New Hampshire presidential primary for the Boston Globe. Before that, she worked for the Concord (N.H.) Monitor, where she wrote about state government, City Hall and Barack Obama's 2008 New Hampshire primary campaign. Shira holds a master's degree from Columbia University's Graduate School of Journalism.

About Shira Schoenberg

Shira Schoenberg is a reporter at CommonWealth magazine. Shira previously worked for more than seven years at the Springfield Republican/MassLive.com where she covered state politics and elections, covering topics as diverse as the launch of the legal marijuana industry, problems with the state's foster care system and the elections of U.S. Sen. Elizabeth Warren and Gov. Charlie Baker. Shira won the Massachusetts Bar Association's 2018 award for Excellence in Legal Journalism and has had several stories win awards from the New England Newspaper and Press Association. Shira covered the 2012 New Hampshire presidential primary for the Boston Globe. Before that, she worked for the Concord (N.H.) Monitor, where she wrote about state government, City Hall and Barack Obama's 2008 New Hampshire primary campaign. Shira holds a master's degree from Columbia University's Graduate School of Journalism.

Supporters of the repeal effort have had more expenditures so far because they had to collect signatures and file the referendum question with the secretary of state’s office. They have also spent money on consultants, including state Republican Party staffer Wendy Wakeman, who has been the committee’s administrator, and John Miligan. The coalition opposing the repeal has not reported significant expenses so far, although organizers have said that they are preparing for a full-fledged campaign to uphold the new law. 

An incorrect donation amount was attributed to a Michigan group and that reference has been deleted.