ICYMI: Jeff Jacoby Column On Closing the Union Loophole

( – promoted by Paul R. Ferro)

Boston Globe columnist Jeff Jacoby recently devoted his column to the effort of two companies owned by MassFiscal board members to overturn Massachusetts’ unconstitutional “union loophole.” The beginning of Jacoby’s column follows; you can read the whole thing at the link above.

WHAT DOES Massachusetts have against the First Amendment?

A lawsuit filed in Superior Court by two family-owned companies – 1A Auto Inc., an auto-parts vendor in Pepperell, and 126 Self Storage Inc., a storage-unit rental firm in Ashland – challenges state campaign-finance rules so crazily lopsided they should be equipped with grab bars. Massachusetts law has long banned businesses from contributing to political candidates or parties, but under rules dating back to the 1980s, labor unions are free to spend up to $15,000 per year in direct political contributions with no disclosure required. Labor unions can also set up PACs – political action committees – to funnel money to candidates and parties they support. Businesses in Massachusetts aren’t allowed to do that either.

The sheer unfairness of such regulations speaks for itself. Whatever your view of unions or businesses – or of any interest group – there should be only one standard for determining whether they can engage in political expression. In 15 states, according to the National Conference of State Legislatures, businesses and unions alike are prohibited from making direct campaign contributions. Nearly twice as many states permit both to contribute on equal terms. If you didn’t know better, you might think it a no-brainer that a state like Massachusetts – a cradle of American liberty, the home of such free-speech champions as Oliver Wendell Holmes Jr. and Louis Brandeis – would be in the second group, holding the marketplace of ideas open to all comers.

Instead Massachusetts is one of a handful of states that blatantly discriminates, blocking campaign contributions from businesses while clearing the way for unions to get involved in electoral contests. The $15,000 no-disclosure loophole is especially egregious. “More than any other state,” argues Jim Manley, a senior litigator with the Arizona-based Goldwater Institute, a pro-bono legal group representing the plaintiffs, “Massachusetts’ campaign contribution restrictions are tilted in favor of unions and against businesses.”

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