Rizzo denies claim in mailer, files complaint
Labor-friendly PAC accused Democratic Senate candidate of backing Republicans
AS VOTERS WENT to the polls on Tuesday in the hotly-contested election for an open state Senate seat in Boston and surrounding communities, one of the seven Democratic candidates, Dan Rizzo, was vehemently denying charges contained in a last-minute mailer and filing a complaint with the state alleging violations of campaign finance laws.
A flier landed in mailboxes in East Boston and Revere on Saturday that charged Rizzo with past endorsements of a string of Republican candidates. The mailer has a photograph showing Rizzo, the former mayor of Revere, with Scott Brown and US Sen. John McCain, and another showing him with former governor Mitt Romney.
“An endorsement is a statement of values…and Dan Rizzo endorsed Republicans like Mitt Romney, Scott Brown, and John McCain,” reads the flier.
Scott Ferson, a spokesman for Rizzo’s campaign, said the flier is full of falsehoods.
The mailing was sent by the Mass Values PAC, a labor-friendly independent expenditure organization established in 2012. The PAC has collected $282,000 in contributions since being formed, almost all of it from two unions. The Massachusetts Teachers Association and 1199 SEIU account for $265,000 of the PAC’s donations.
The mailing appeared to run afoul of state campaign finance law, which requires any PAC expenditure made within 10 days of an election to be posted electronically within 24 hours on the Office of Campaign and Political Finance website.
The mailers would have been sent on Friday at the latest in order to arrive in Saturday’s mail. Rizzo’s campaign said another attack mailer was sent out last Wednesday at the latest. An expenditure disclosure was posted Monday at 7:12 pm to the state campaign finance website showing spending of $7,473 for printing and postage.
“It’s disappointing to see the Mass Values PAC make deliberately false claims to mislead voters in the final days of the election. However, it’s even more upsetting to see them subvert a state campaign finance law designed to ensure transparency. The least we can do is hold them accountable,” said Tim Devlin, a Rizzo campaign staffer, in a statement.
Rizzo’s campaign said the second mailer, which attacked Rizzo’s performance as mayor in Revere, began landing in mailboxes there on Thursday, which would make Monday night’s disclosure an even bigger potential breach of the 24-hour disclosure requirement.
Campaign finance laws require that PACs disclose which candidate their spending is aimed at helping – or hurting.
The Monday night filing reported that the Mass Values PAC expenditures were made in opposition to Rizzo, but it also said the spending was done in support of four of the six other Democrats in the race: state Rep. Jay Livingstone of Beacon Hill, Joseph Boncore of Winthrop, public interest attorney Lydia Edwards of East Boston, and former State House staffer Diana Hwang of East Boston.
By law, independent expenditure PACs cannot coordinate their activities with any candidate campaign.
The Mass Values PAC did not answer an email sent to the address listed on its original filing in 2012.
While the PAC has reported no donations for the current election cycle, it began the year with a $10,600 balance, enough to fund the recent mailings.
The two big funders of the PAC have both endorsed candidates in the race: 1199 SEIU is backing Livingstone and the Mass. Teachers Association is supporting Edwards.
Neither union returned a call on Tuesday asking about the mailer.
The stakes in today’s primary are high because there are no Republicans running in the heavily Democratic district. That means the Democratic primary winner is all but assured of becoming the district’s next senator.
Pointing to the fact that the PAC is closely aligned with the state’s Democratic establishment, Ferson, a longtime Democratic strategist, called on the state Democratic Party to denounce the unfounded attack on a candidate running in a competitive party primary.
“When Democratic-backed groups lie outright about a Democratic candidate, somebody needs to call that out,” Ferson said.Matt Fenlon, executive director the Massachusetts Democratic Party, spoke with Ferson about the mailing, but said the party was trying to gather more information before making any statement.