Common Cause Massachusetts Statement on Goldwater Institute Lawsuit

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  • Pam Wilmot

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Please see our full statement on the lawsuit filed on February 24th, 2015 by the Goldwater Institute against the Massachusetts Office of Campaign and Political Finance:

The Goldwater Institute announced today that it is suing the state of Massachusetts to eliminate the prohibition on corporate contributions to Massachusetts candidates.  We strongly oppose this effort.  There is too much money in politics already. Allowing corporations to donate to politicians will just increase special interest influence in politics and that is absolutely the wrong direction.

Corporations are banned from giving contributions to candidates in 20 states and the federal government, and for good reason. Unlike individuals or associations of individuals, corporations are economic actors with state-conferred privileges such as limited liability and are organized for the purpose of making money. U.S. corporations now hold $1.5 trillion in cash reserves alone. If they wanted to spend just 10% of that on influencing politicians, an additional $100 billion would be injected in elections nationwide, more than 10 times the total spending in state, local, and federal elections in the U.S. in 2012.

The Supreme Court has recognized that contributions made directly to candidates potentially are more corrupting to the political system than are independent expenditures. Corporate contribution bans are critical because corporations can be subdivided endlessly, in many cases allowing companies to skirt contribution limits simply by spinning off new subsidiaries. 

The Goldwater Institute claims that state law gives unions have unfair advantage over corporations in the political realm. This is true only in one respect.  Common Cause agrees with the Institute that unions should not be able to donate to $15,000 to a single candidate. Instead, they should be subject to the same $1,000 limit imposed on other groups or individuals. 

The exemption to the $1,000 limit was created by the Massachusetts Office of Campaign and Political Finance (OCPF) in 1988.  According to the agency, any group that obtains money through dues and does not take corporate money can contribute up to $15,000 without being subject to the $1,000 limit.  Common Cause believes that the exemption has no basis in law and should be overturned; unions should play by the same rules as every other group.

Common Cause will seek to intervene in the case when it is possible to do so.  Big money in politics is strangling our democracy. We will fight any attempt, such as this one to increase, rather than reduce, special interest influence in politics.

Read more:

Conservative Think Tank Files Suit Over Campaign Finance Law – Boston Herald

State Campaign Finance Law Faces Legal Challenge – Boston Globe

Campaign Finance Lawsuit Unites Conservatives and Liberals – WGBH News

Conservative Advocacy Group Sues State Over Campaign Law – Lowell Sun

Lawsuit Filed Against Massachusetts’ Ban On Corporate Political Contributions – The Washington Free Beacon 



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