Public sector unions backing DiZoglio for auditor

Union-backed super PACs spent $630,000 on her behalf

PUBLIC SECTOR UNIONS are playing a huge financial role in the auditor campaign of state Sen. Diana DiZoglio, who if elected has promised to be a voice for labor in the office.

According to campaign finance records, union organizations donated $15,450 directly  to her campaign from May through September, or nearly 8 percent of the $197,089 she raised.

The big union money pushing DiZoglio’s candidacy came from two super PACs backed primarily by the National Association of Government Employees, the International Association of Firefighters, and the Massachusetts Teachers Association.

The Commonwealth for All super PAC, which was formed in mid-May, spent $582,000 on digital advertising supporting DiZoglio’s campaign so far in August and September. A Massachusetts Teachers Association super PAC spent another $50,000 on her behalf. Super PACs are allowed to raise and spend unlimited amounts of money on behalf of candidates, but are barred from coordinating their activity with the campaigns.

In all, a total of $1.3 million has been spent promoting DiZoglio’s campaign from May through September — and 47 percent came from unions. Most of the money came from unions representing public sector employees who are likely to figure in audits conducted by the state auditor’s office.

Anthony Amore, the Republican candidate for auditor, said all that union money raises questions about DiZoglio’s independence and impartiality if she is elected.

“These are the people that the auditor has to examine,” he said. “This is something voters should be worried about.”

Doug Rubin, a political consultant retained by DiZoglio, responded with a statement saying the senator is proud of her support from nurses, teachers, and firefighters.

“She has a well-earned reputation as having the most independent record on Beacon Hill, and has directly taken on leaders of her own party to push for more transparency and accountability in state government. She will take that same independence and willingness to challenge powerful insiders to the job of state auditor,” Rubin said.

“Her opponent has been endorsed by Gov. Charlie Baker,” Rubin said. “Does that mean he will be unwilling to audit the contracts entered into and work left behind by the Baker administration?”

Amore is running an uphill campaign against a sitting senator who on Thursday made a campaign swing through western Massachusetts with the Democratic candidate for governor, Maura Healey. Amore, by contrast, has aligned himself with Baker and received little support from the pro-Trump Massachusetts Republican Party.

Heading into October, DiZoglio and Amore appeared fairly evenly matched financially. Amore had $26,714 in cash on hand in his campaign account at the end of September, while DiZoglio had $35,430. Most of the super PAC money supporting DiZoglio had been spent during the Democratic primary, but on Thursday the Commonwealth for All super PAC spent another $180,000 on digital advertising supporting DiZoglio’s campaign, fueled by contributions from the Massachusetts Teachers Association and the National Association of Government Employees.

Amore and DiZogilio have very different views on a key responsibility of the auditor’s office – giving approval for the privatization of public services, an issue of major concern to public sector unions.

CommonWealth examined this issue a month ago using candidate questionnaires the candidates filled out for two different union organizations, which hindered the ability to make a direct comparison of their views.  Since then, DiZoglio has released her answers to the questionnaire Amore previously released from Council 93 of the American Federation of State, County, and Municipal Employees, which focuses almost exclusively on the privatization issue. DiZoglio’s views appear to match up well with those of the union.

For example, the questionnaire asks the candidate’s opinion of privatization of public services in general.

Amore’s response was neutral. “I start from the premise that the executive administrators of public services have the public’s best interests at heart and care deeply about the performance of their services overall,” he said. “If the leaders of a state agency believe that privatization serves the public’s interest, then I would be open to giving a fair and impartial look at privatization as state auditor.”

DiZoglio indicated she comes at the issue differently.

“I will bring to the auditor’s office a great deal of skepticism when it comes to the privatization of public services,” she said. “We cannot view the value of education through its cost. We cannot understand the human cost of failed private prisons through the dollar cost of service delivery. When it comes to privatization, I believe the bar must be high, with rigorous, comprehensive analysis of the costs, benefits, and value.”

DiZoglio pledged to defend the Taxpayer Protection Act, the legislation granting the auditor oversight of all privatization efforts over a certain dollar value, and said she would favor extending the mandate of the law to municipal privatization initiatives.

Amore said he would generally oppose any effort to weaken the law unless doing so would yield significant benefits, such as increasing diversity in the state’s workforce or helping the state achieve its climate change goals. Amore said he would not favor extending the law’s mandate to municipal privatization initiatives, but he would be in favor of requiring municipalities to seek an advisory opinion from the auditor before launching a privatization initiative.

Both candidates said they would pursue in their first year in office an initiative recommended by the union organization — to audit private non-profit and for-profit human service agencies paid with state funds and document the high salaries they pay  their top executives.

In closing, both candidates appealed for the union organization’s support. Amore said he is running as a Republican, but not an anti-union Republican. “I do not intend to serve as the Republican auditor but, rather, as the auditor for all of the people of the Commonwealth,” he said. “A cornerstone of my campaign has been that it is about being professional, not political. I will not let ideology get in the way of protecting the taxpayers against waste, fraud, and abuse, nor will I seek to use the power of the office to do anything but measure the performance of the state’s agencies in fulfilling their legally required duties.”

DiZoglio indicated she would be a friend of labor unions as auditor. “I am the ONLY candidate in this race with a track record of supporting labor through demonstrated votes and we need a proven voice for labor in the auditor’s office,” she said. “My commitment to working families and the rights of organized labor is unmatched in this race. In fact, I am the only candidate to have been endorsed by organized labor, including but not limited to the National Association of Government Employees, UNITE HERE 26, IBEW Local 223, Boston Carmen’s Union, Iron Workers Local 7, Machinists District 15, the MBTA Inspectors Union, Operating Engineers Local 4, the Professional Fire Fighters of Massachusetts, Massachusetts Nurses Association, and Teamsters Local 170 and 25.”